Tithes without borders
February 20, 2009
Luis Samayoa, National Director of Habitat Guatemala feels that active participation in the tithe philosophy is an imperative characteristic of Habitat Guatemala.
In 1979, out of a tiny office in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, Habitat for Humanity first opened its doors to Latin American families. 30 years later, Habitat Guatemala has a presence in every department of the country and has served over 28,700 families–not counting the homes they have built in other countries through yearly tithe contributions.
The word “tithe” comes from the tradition in which people of certain faiths would donate ten percent of their income to their religious institution. Through Habitat’s tithe program, Habitat partners are encouraged to donate a tenth of what they raise in support of house building in another country, encouraging all programs to participate in the international effort to eliminate global poverty by sending a portion of what is raised in their home country elsewhere.
In times of financial crisis, the tithe program holds us together in firm, mutual, and often long-term support. In the last five years, Habitat Guatemala has received tithe contributions from programs such as Habitat Britain, Habitat Paraguay, Habitat Northern Ireland, Habitat Canada, and some 237 affiliates across the United States. Each year, in turn, Habitat Guatemala commits a full tenth of its income to distinct national programs around the world.
This year, Habitat Guatemala has contributed US$20,000 each to Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan, Ghana and Paraguay.
Guatemala’s philosophy on giving
Luis Samayoa, National Director of Habitat Guatemala, feels that active participation in the tithe philosophy is an imperative characteristic of Habitat Guatemala.
“In Habitat Guatemala, we particularly look at programs that have a special need: in the case of Ghana, for example, an affiliate which receives very few tithe contributions from other programs. We also look at programs that are able to generate the highest level of impact in their service to families in need.
Habitat Guatemala views the practice of tithing as a seed. “With this seed,” explains Mr. Samayoa, “we demonstrate that we share the load of other affiliates around the world, and provide encouragement that their loads can be carried alongside our own. Because this ten percent of our income represents a seed, the idea is not that we hoard it for our own use—the idea is to plant and to share it.”
Tithe one: Tajikistan
Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan began in 1999, and has since served over 1,700 families. The country was selected by the Europe and Central Asia office as a focus program for the launching of innovative programs, projects and partnerships. These changes have created a dramatic increase in the number of families served.
Habitat Guatemala’s tithe commitment of US$20,000 to Tajikistan represents the first time that a program outside of Europe, Canada and the U.S. has tithed to this country. In Tajikistan, the contribution can go a long way. This year, the funds will provide 75 families with a safe, dependable potable water source.
Despite residing on opposite ends of the earth, the two Habitat offices find that they have much in common. Both programs work in a context where almost 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and both countries have high population growth that is insufficiently supported by national construction industries. Both regions experience similar housing problems: lack of land and difficulty obtaining land tenure; absence of affordable housing loans; houses located in high-risk zones; government inability to tackle poverty housing issues, etc.
A letter of gratitude from Behruz Dadoboev of Habitat Tajikistan to Luis Samayoa of Habitat Guatemala expresses the following sentiments. “We at Habitat Tajikistan are blessed with generous tithe from your affiliate, and very much inspired by your decision to choose us as a reliable partner in serving Habitat global mission.”
Barbora Fričová, Resource Development and Communications Assistant for Habitat Europe/Central Asia, states that, “The national office sees this tithe as an inspiration and abundant blessing. Habitat Tajikistan highly appreciates this support. This is a considerable contribution towards the achievement of this year goals and puts Habitat Tajikistan one more step closer towards ultimate goal of elimination of poverty housing in the region.”
For more information on Habitat Tajikistan, please visit Habitat Europe/Central Asia.
Tithe two: Ghana
Ghana stands on the Gulf of New Guinea, only a few degrees north of the equator in western Africa. 2007 marked this national program’s 20th anniversary and the completion of its 5,000th house. Habitat Ghana currently operates in 8 of the country’s 10 regions—representing a total of 135 communities.
In response to the announcement of Guatemala’s tithe contribution, National Director Emmanuel Kwaa says, “This tithe will go a long way to help the Habitat for Humanity Ghana housing ministry. We hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. We will always be indebted to Guatemala for this wonderful gesture. God bless their efforts.”
This is the first time that a country in the Latin America/Caribbean region has tithed to Habitat Ghana. The US$20,000 donation will build six complete houses in Ghana.
For more information on Habitat Ghana, please visit Habitat Africa/Middle East.
Tithe three: Paraguay
Habitat for Humanity Paraguay was established in 1998, and has since benefited over 3,700 individuals. Paraguay is the third poorest country in South America, with an estimated housing deficit of 470,000 homes and an additional 250,700 homes which demonstrate inadequate or unsafe living conditions.
Habitat for Humanity Paraguay focuses its efforts and resources on creating housing solutions that include both traditional homes, as well as alternative housing solutions for families with extremely limited financial resources. For families living in inadequate or unsafe conditions, this includes improvements, repairs and additions to current homes. Families that need to start from scratch can obtain a series of small loans, which allows them to build in stages. (Learn more about building in stages by watching “The Housing Paradox.”)
The tithe of US$20,000 will help families from the western department of Presidente Hayes who lack an adequate bathroom facility.
Mary Lechenuck, National Director of Habitat Paraguay, expresses gratitude on behalf of the national organization, “We feel remembered, and motivated to give and work hard each day. We are grateful to Habitat Guatemala for their immense solidarity in sharing the blessings that they have received, which will provide a solution for families who do not have adequate bathroom facilities.”
For more information on Habitat Paraguay, please visit Habitat Latin America/Caribbean.