The Publication of Habitat for Humanity International

Habitat World

Why We Build


For every family we build alongside, the experience is life-changing. We build to open doors to new opportunities. We build for the promise of a new start and a better life.

Add it all up, and it’s easy to see the emerging outline of what a world where everyone has a decent place to live might be like. We’ll only get there together. Homes, communities, hope. What will you build?

We Build Brighter Futures.

For a single mother of five living in a Nigeria plagued by political turmoil, the idea that her children would one day graduate from a prestigious American university might seem unattainable, if not absurd. For Lucy Okonokhua Jackson, it was the plan.

After bravely moving her young family to Atlanta, Lucy struggled to escape shelters, then lived with the fear of eviction from a cramped apartment. When she finally became a Habitat homeowner, she designated one bedroom as a library, a space where she checked homework and made sure the kids studied every day.

Her dedication paid dividends. For the Okonokhuas, the Habitat experience included a faithful friend and supporter who would help shape their future: volunteer Frank Belatti. He helped build their house and also introduced the children to the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater — and ultimately all of theirs.

Lucy credits God — and Habitat. “The Habitat house,” she says, “made it all possible.”

A mother’s encouragement and sacrifices. A volunteer’s long-term engagement and care. Five opportunities that came from the act of construction. Families find more than shelter when they build with Habitat. They find relationships and hope. They find a brighter future full of possibilities.

Read the Okonokhuas' full story.

We Build Traditions.

This year marks the 80th year that the famed Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has stood tall in the plaza. Each year since 2007, the magic of the most famous Christmas tree in the world has lived long past the holiday season, as lumber from the tree becomes part of a Habitat house.

The children’s book The Carpenter’s Gift, written by David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity and illustrated by Jim LaMarche, celebrates this partnership. The story of a young boy in Depression-era New York who wishes for a decent home for his family, The Carpenter’s Gift shares a lesson about the importance of helping our neighbors.

“People probably say, ‘It’s done; the tree is gone.’ But not for our family,” says Habitat homeowner Iveth Bowie, whose daughter Sarah Gaviria is pictured above. “For our family, it’s more than a tree. It’s hope.”

Lumber from Rockefeller Center Christmas trees has been used to help build Habitat homes in Pascagoula, Mississippi; New York City; Stamford, Connecticut; Newburgh, New York; and Philadelphia.

Explore this special partnership and learn about the book—newly available in an e-version this year.

We Build Lifelong Homes.

lifelong-jesse Courtesy Teresa Herbert

One day, nearly a year after Teresa Herbert and her son, Jesse, moved into their new Habitat home in Harford County, Maryland, he suddenly began packing all his toys into a box.

Jesse, who is autistic and has Down syndrome, doesn’t speak. But his mother knew what he was thinking: “It’s been about a year; it must be time to move.”

Jesse’s life up to that point had been punctuated by moves, beginning with his family’s eviction from their apartment when he was less than a year old. Now, though — after years of living on the margins, years of wondering where they would end up next — Herbert could tell her son that he would always have a place to live.

The newfound stability has produced great changes in Jesse, who is now 9. He no longer hides under the table when other children are around. He is learning to ride a bike. And his communication skills are improving; he and his mother used a special software program that marries pictures with words to create this wonderful letter to Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford.

Teresa works hard in what she calls “a race against time” to have finances in place for Jesse’s future. Now that she can afford a stable home for him, she has returned to school with that goal in mind.

She is happiest about what the house means for Jesse’s long-term prospects. “The biggest challenge for an adult with a developmental disability is housing,” she says. “I can leave him this house. This is going to enable my son to never have to worry about where he’s going. He will not need to be at the mercy of anyone. He will have a home.”

We Build With Hope, Love, and Creativity.

Pennsylvania’s York Habitat sought a unique way to pique the community’s interest in the affiliate’s annual “Building on Faith” project, an opportunity for various faith communities in the area to come together to build simple, decent, affordable homes.

Volunteer Roxanne Price recalled a project she’d done years ago as a 4-H educator, and the Positive Graffiti workshops were born. “Why not try to get teens involved with Habitat?” Price says. “Since many of them are too young to actually help with the builds, this allows them the opportunity to show their support to the families that Habitat serves.”

Three different events were held, in order to give as many kids as possible the opportunity to participate. Two community artists volunteered to teach basics about design, theory and different types of lettering before the young artists were unleashed on 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood to create art about hope, home and love.

Once completed, the boards embarked upon a tour of local churches and other public spots, with cards explaining the project and encouraging people to text donations to Habitat. When the Building on Faith crews start work on their 2013 build, they’ll use the boards as part of roof structures, adding that bit of extra love into the homes.

We Build Because It Means So Much.

Affordable housing can reduce overcrowding and other sources of housing-related stress that lead to poor educational outcomes by allowing families to afford decent-quality homes of their own.

Well-constructed, maintained and managed affordable housing can help families address or escape housing-related health hazards (e.g., lead poisoning and asthma) that adversely impact learning.

Stable, affordable housing may reduce the frequency of unwanted moves that lead children to experience disruptions in home life or educational instruction.

Help Us Build!


Eight-year-old Hunter Wendell was so excited about his family’s Habitat house in Marine City, Michigan, that he sat down and wrote a thank-you letter to Blue Water Habitat before he had even moved in.

His family had not known the stability of their own home for far too long. Today, they know it well.

In his sweet excitement, Hunter recognizes the effort and support required to build “that many houses.” Every gift that you give has an impact on the life of a child, a family, a community. Hunter — and all of those families who now sleep, learn and live under roofs they helped raise — are why we build. You are how we build.

Help us reach more families today.



Join the conversation

Post on Habitat’s Facebook page, use the hashtag #whywebuild on Twitter, take the pledge at

None of my problems or personal losses could compare with those of the people who will be living in the houses we helped build that one day. Before I knew it, I had put up a peaceful and ideal home in my heart. This is why I build.

— Simon Romulo Tantoco, member of the Habitat for Humanity Youth Council

Read Simon’s full story.