The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International | April / May 2002
|Writing Home: Habitat Staff, Volunteers Share Experiences
Kate Bistline is an international partner serving in Egypt, where Habitat works in partnership with the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. Early this year, she wrote: The weather in Egypt this year has been unusually cold and wet. Everyone was grumbling about the traffic problems and not being able to put their laundry out to dry. But the thought of the millions of Egyptians living in homes with dirt floors, mud walls and thatch roofs brought things into perspective.
She said one of HFH Egypt’s new homeowners, A’zer Meggally Honein, wrote: I am married and have a young daughter. I was living in a home made out of mud bricks. One day I saw water coming up through the dirt floor and the walls turned out to be fully wet. Each day I used to add some dirt in order to be able to stay in the house. I used to wake up finding myself near the floor as the bed was going deep down in the mud.
As soon as I knew that [Habitat] is helping people and building homes for them to improve their health, I filled in an application. I now [have] finished building my home and no longer have water in the floor because the house was raised above the street level.
Papua New Guinea’s first campus chapter, made up of students at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech), joined forces with a Global Village team from the United States last September to gain hands-on building experience. According to an article by Chris Runapo, a staff member with HFH Papua New Guinea, they learned about more than construction:
It was a long, tiring journey through the Highlands Highway to get to Katzokite. The team from the States arrived on Sunday into a traditional welcome by the villagers. It was a time when people [came] in curiosity to see for the first time a team of white people to stay in their village.
We achieved more than a house for that little while. Our weaknesses became our strengths, all differences became one and diverse cultures did not differentiate us because we were one in Jesus Christ. The hammer of love had brought us together to build decent houses for the two needy families in Katzokite. It was a life-touching experience.
From Kyrgyzstan, international partner Tanya Weaver wrote that just as Habitat’s staff settled down to wait out freezing winter temperatures, they received a last-minute invitation from the Presidency of the Kyrgyz Republic to present Habitat’s work at the Conference on Poverty in Kyrgyzstan.
We found out that Habitat would have the only informational stands at the conference. Out of 638 invited peoplegovernors, mayors, NGOs, the United Nations, directors of companiesHabitat alone would show its work.
The day of the conference came, and President Akaev opened with a 2 1/2-hour speech. A good portion of his speech focused on the work of Habitat Kyrgyzstan Foundation. [Habitat was] mentioned as an example to other NGOs as a group that is giving people in need a hand up, not a hand out.
Brad Henderson and Debbie Falk are international partners working in Chile, but before relocating there, they worked with Habitat in Bolivia. In January, Falk wrote about their experiences in Bolivia: The grinding poverty and sense of hopelessness that Bolivians have to face day to day left both of us deeply affected. I think we have been ‘broken’ by that experience so that we will be able to have more compassion for others’ needs. Hopefully some day I will get to the point where I never complain about anything ever again, knowing that no matter what I am going through, there will be millions of people who are truly suffering and that I am blessed beyond all measure and understanding. I certainly don’t understand why there has to be what seems to be needless suffering on the part of so many innocent people. But I am convinced that I am responsible to determine where in myself I am the cause of suffering to others and to change that. I am also responsible to do what is in my power to help others in their suffering right now.
Paul Ritter of Okeechobee, Fla., traveled to the Republic of Korea last August to volunteer with the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2001. In November, he described in an e-mail the continuing impact of the experience: The photo in the back [of the December 2001/January 2002 Habitat World] of the two kids running around in their new house [in Korea] really reminds me of why we do this. A few days after the tragedy in New York, I was telling a friend about my trip to Korea when I had an epiphany kind of moment. I suddenly realized that Sept. 11 is why I do Habitat. I went to build houses for strangers, and five days later dedicated a new house for a friend. It’s that kind of one-to-one friendship that makes world peace possible.
For more information about serving overseas, visit www.habitat.org/HR/, or call (800) 422-4828.
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