The 1997 Jimmy Carter Work Project
When "Hammering in the Hills," the 1997 Jimmy Carter Work Project of Habitat for Humanity International, ended on June 21, some four dozen families in need had new houses to move into -- simple, decent places to live on terms they can afford to pay -- that didn't exist just seven days before.
The 50-plus houses built in eastern Kentucky and Tennessee marked the 14th straight year the former U.S. president and his wife, Rosalynn, have committed a week to building Habitat houses alongside the homeowner partners and other volunteers from around the world.
Raising houses is just one goal of the Jimmy Carter Work Project, however. The other is raising awareness of the critical need for affordable housing everywhere.
In the Appalachian region that was the focus of this year's Jimmy Carter Work Project, as many as 52 percent of the households live in poverty. On average, these households earn less than $13,000 a year and more than 16 percent in the region do not have plumbing facilities -- more than 15 times the national average.
Worldwide, more than 1 billion people are inadequately sheltered. In virtually every community, in every nation, families struggle to survive in harsh and often deplorable living conditions.
Since its founding 21 years ago, Habitat for Humanity Int'l -- through the work of local affiliates -- has been building answers: over 60,000 Habitat houses to date, providing shelter to nearly 300,000 people in need.
Habitat is not a give-away program, though. Like all partner families, those that have moved into homes built during this year's JCWP are buying the houses, paying them off in the coming years. Their payments will go into a local Fund for Humanity to build even more houses.
A variety of factors combine to make Habitat house payments affordable to low-income partner families:
While 50-plus houses were built during the JCWP week, the project was the catalyst for the construction of 150 new homes in all. Seven affiliates served as hosts for JCWP; 24 other Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Kentucky and Tennessee echoed the excitement by building 40 homes this summer over and above their normal building plans. In addition, 60 homes were constructed through a unique partnership with the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises.
One additional focus of this year's JCWP has been environmental awareness -- making both the construction process and the homes being built energy- and resource-efficient. This involves three major commitments: building the homes to meet Model Energy Code standards; minimizing material and food service waste during the construction phase; and recovering waste materials through reuse, recycling and composting.
This year's work has pushed to well over 400 the number of houses built as part of the Jimmy Carter projects.
"We have become small players in an exciting global effort to alleviate the curse of homelessness," says Carter. "With our many new friends, we have worked to raise funds, to publicize the good work of Habitat, to recruit other volunteers, to visit overseas projects and even to build a few houses."
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