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There's no place like home

In honor of 25th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program, longtime GV volunteer Jennifer Brining recounts her first Habitat trip to Botswana

A Habitat building in Botswana. Photo courtsey of Jennifer Brining

When a girl awakes in her own bed after a wild dream or nightmare, she is just relieved to be home. She may not live in Kansas, may not have magic ruby slippers, may not even have a real bed, but she is no doubt at home. It’s that special place where she wakes up surrounded by loved ones and feels a certain warm comfort and refuge.

The reality is that, although everyone has dreams and nightmares, not all people wake up in a comfortable bed in a comfortable house. Somebody’s wildest dream could be to have a sturdy roof over their head, a comfortable mattress to sleep on or even the dream of a hot breakfast.

I have great difficulty remembering my nightly dreams, but my daydreams are hard to forget. While I appreciate how lucky I am to live in a nice, safe house, I can’t help thinking about all those who aren’t as fortunate. I especially think about my new friend Roru and his family in Mahalape, Botswana. Habitat for Humanity helped put a roof over their heads.

My thoughts keep returning to the two weeks I spent building that house, helping rebuild their makeshift hut into a sturdy home. Whenever cement blocks or other materials were needed, we piece-by-piece dismantled their temporary unstable hut, which the family had pieced together using the new materials.

The disturbing part, which indeed motivated us to work faster, was knowing that winter was quickly approaching and that as we dismantled their hut the family of 19 would have no roof over their heads until we completed their new Habitat home.

What made our two weeks so special was not only the warm feeling in our hearts from helping someone’s dream come true, but the added bonus of having experienced a new culture with new friends.

Jennifer Brining (left) with her good friend and future GV co-leader Trina Godfrey in Botswana. Photo courtsey of Jennifer Brining

An emotional dedication ceremony on our last day in Mahalape was the perfect ending to such a rewarding trip. Waving goodbye to Roru and his family in their new home and seeing the looks on their faces as we departed on the dusty road was a sight that will be etched in my soul forever.

The ironic part is that while I thought I was there to transform their lives, they in turn, transformed mine. They ignited a passion in me that I hope to pass on to many friends and family members.

In two short weeks, I learned firsthand how Habitat for Humanity has inspired so many to help in its goal to eliminate poverty housing worldwide.  For many, like me, it becomes almost an addiction.

All over the world there are families like Roru’s, inspiring ordinary people like myself to help put a roof over someone else’s head. Where “somewhere, over the rainbow, the dreams that they dare to dream really do come true.”

Author’s note: I wrote this article after participating in my very first Habitat build in 2008. Since then, I trained to be a leader, and my co-leader, Trina Godfrey, and myself have made our own dreams come true by leading teams to Costa Rica, Nepal, Mozambique and Romania, and participated in other builds In Macedonia, Mexico and New Orleans.