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United States ] Habitat on the Hill


In early February, more than 250 Habitat for Humanity leaders and supporters, representing nearly 40 states, gathered in Washington, D.C., to urge lawmakers to support policies that help Habitat address the issue of substandard and poverty housing.

During Habitat on the Hill, Habitat’s annual legislative conference, attendees met with their representatives to champion the Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity Program and AmeriCorps — programs that help thousands of low-income families gain access to affordable and safe homes every year.

“By connecting with our elected leaders through Habitat on the Hill, we share the message that low-income housing plays a key role in our communities and that supportive federal policies are essential for Habitat to assist families worldwide,” says Liz Blake, Habitat for Humanity International’s senior vice president of advocacy, government affairs and general counsel.

The event culminated with the release of Habitat’s 2013 Shelter Report, “Keeping faith: Affordable housing and strong communities.” The report focuses on housing as a cornerstone of community development and urges Americans, policymakers and all housing stakeholders to maintain their faith and confidence that low-income homeownership is a strong building block for resilient, healthy communities.

Learn more about Habitat on the Hill and Habitat’s advocacy program at

New Zealand ]

When children and teenagers built with LEGO blocks for Habitat New Zealand, the result was amazing creativity — and budding advocates for decent housing.

This fall, the first-ever Habitat for Humanity Build Challenge asked participants to build a house that represented a place they would like to live. The competition, which had both online and onsite categories, attracted 1,060 entries, with winners determined by the highest number of votes cast online.

Those who built at home uploaded photos and descriptions of their homes to Those who took part in event builds had an hour to complete their construction. Event builds took place in churches, schools, universities, community centers, shopping malls, and even kids’ clubs.

“I believe that if it becomes a regular annual event, kids will be looking forward to it,” says Adrian Whale, general manager of Habitat New Zealand’s Northland affiliate. “And eventually, when they want to change the world, they are likely to choose Habitat as the vehicle to do it.”

Kenya ]

Twenty-five more families in the community of Maai Mahiu — once left homeless by explosive political violence following a contested presidential election — have received the keys to their new homes. An official ceremony in September dedicated the houses, built with volunteers and financial support from the Dow Chemical Company.

In 2007 in Kenya, more than 1,000 people were killed, and more than 600,000 people found themselves homeless as they fled the violence. A group of nearly 350 displaced families eventually combined forces and, with the help of the Kenyan government, purchased land near Maai Mahiu. They divided the land into small plots and began a new life in tattered and makeshift tents. Habitat Kenya began partnering with them in 2009 to fund and build homes.

Romania ] Romania's Big Build wins national award for second time

In December 2012, Habitat Romania’s Big Build was honored as the best social volunteer project in Romania for the second year in a row. The award is granted to the winner of a national competition among nongovernmental and public organizations.

Every October, Habitat Romania brings together local corporate supporters and volunteers with visiting volunteers from Northern Ireland and other countries to participate in blitz building activities. Each year, the event starts on World Habitat Day, an October Monday set aside by the United Nations to call attention to the need for better shelter around the world. By the end of the week, volunteers finish completed homes alongside families in need of simple and decent shelter.

Under the motto “more homes, one community,” the 2012 event gathered more than 500 volunteers and resulted in 14 Habitat houses. For the first time, the Big Build took place in two locations in Romania — Oradea and Preajba, a community near Craiova.

During the Big Build’s four years, the event has helped 46 families and mobilized more than 1,500 volunteers.

“It is really gratifying to actually witness the progress of what you’ve done. Everybody should do it."

— Alex Stein
Dominican Republic ]

Earlier this year, 12 doctoral students from Harvard University visited the Dominican Republic as Global Village trip participants. The honor students — who represented law, neurosurgery, political science and other concentrations of study — built and painted two houses that two Dominican families in the city of San Juan de la Maguana will soon call home.

“It is really gratifying to actually witness the progress of what you’ve done,” says Alex Stein, Habitat Harvard’s chapter co-director “Everybody should do it. One of the highlights of the trip is the cultural interaction. You can build a house anywhere, but building here surrounded by the warmth of the locals — all gathered around you and knowing you are really making a difference — makes it meaningful.”

In addition to their build activities, the students visited the Presidential Palace and met with political representatives to discuss Dominican housing matters.