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FoundationsFrom Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford

Opportunities to Change Lives

Words by Jonathan Reckford

Published on Nov. 14, 2012

I had been thinking big.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Cambodia with my son and 10 others to help two wonderful families build their homes. That trip came just days after Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors approved the goals and objectives for our new strategic plan.

For months, we had talked about how we could scale up our work and increase our impact around the world. We talked about how the problem of inadequate shelter continues to grow and how we need to do more. I was very excited about the strategies we developed to effect transformative changes, and I was thinking a lot about the magnitude of work that lay before us.

Then I spent a morning working in the blazing sun in the village of Trapaing Anhchanh. I laid bricks next to Meng Nat, pictured below, who supports her family despite living with HIV. She is often very sick, and her husband suffers from mental illness. They had to sell their previous home to be able to afford their medications.

Until their Habitat home was complete, they rented a 2-by-2-meter house, made of scrap materials and constructed atop polluted, stagnant water. Meng Nat told me that until that day she “never dared to dream of having her own home, but now it seems real.” I looked at the smile on her face and was reminded so clearly that this is why we build. The amazing dedication ceremony, complete with our releasing birds to represent new hope, culminated a terrific afternoon that made me want to work for Habitat forever!

Some of my favorite memories from Cambodia are the moments I spent playing with Meng Nat’s young daughter. I kept thinking how different her life is going to be now that she has a decent place to call home. I was grateful to be reminded in such a personal way that the ministry of Habitat is about helping real people who are struggling just to survive each day. God calls each of us to care for our neighbors in need and has blessed us with opportunities that can change lives.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the world of thinking big — the millions of families around the world who live in poverty and the massive resources and commitment that will be required to impact that great need. But looking into the eyes of a young child in El Salvador who dreams of being a lawyer, hearing a matriarch in the U.S. tell how wonderful it is to feel safe sitting on the porch again and smiling with Meng Nat — these are the reasons why we build.

Imagine with me a world where everyone has a decent place to live — and join us as we build homes, communities and hope.