After moving 30 times during his adult life, Jong Rok Lee, 56, moved last August for what he hopes will be the last time. His Habitat house was one of 80 built in 20 four-unit buildings (and one of several sponsored in a partnership with Lions Clubs International, which builds houses with families with disabilities) during the Jimmy Carter Work Project in Asan, Republic of Korea.
I had to move mostly because of financial situations, he says. I lived in someone elses house. It was a very small house, and so old that Ive been living with cockroaches and mice for a long time. We gave our 4-year-old son the kitchen to sleep in, but thats where the rats were and we worried about disease.
In addition to the perils of living in such precarious housing, Lee has also had to battle physical limitations due to polio. Often in his previous housing, daily practicalities were overwhelming. I have to go to the bathroom a lot and need someone to help, he says. One time I fell down and passed out. In the old house, the bathroom was so cold, I had to consider to use it or not every day.
Today, he no longer has to make that choice. His Habitat house is warm, and his bathroom is equipped with grips to prevent falling. He enjoys his living room with its priceless view. I can see the scenery in this cold winter, without having to go outside, he says.
We are thinking we are never going to go out, we are never going to move again, says Lee. We have told our children, when we die, they can never sell this house. They have to keep the house in the family.
I have been living in another persons house for 35 years, he says. I cant express how I feel. When I see volunteers nailing a nail, I want to cry. I would like to do a traditional Korean bow to President Carter. This means I am very grateful.