Editor's Note: Following are "field notes" that further illustrate the need for and value of decent housing.
Joe and Rosario Brueggen, Florida
When Joe and Rosario Brueggen moved from Missouri to Immokalee, Fla., in 1983 to work as volunteers with the young Habitat program, they were newly married and looking to work with people in need.They moved to the right place. Desperate living conditions haunted the lowincome residents of the town, especially the thousands of farm workers in decrepit trailers who picked produce during the south Florida harvest season.
In 1984, Joe became the director of the Habitat program and set about building a house for his own young family, Habitat-style. Like the other homeowners in the program, Joe and Charo began making monthly mortgage payments and clearly remember the date on which they became homeowners for the first time: March 5, 1985.
Joe moved into a public health career in late 1986, a field in which he is able to keep in touch with the realities of life for the county's poor.
"We still have a trailer problem," he says. "The more of those we can get rid of, the better.A lot of them have worse living conditions than what I've seen for some livestock in Missouri."
Yet, Habitat is making progress.Today, HFH of Collier County has built more than 600 houses. Families that once feared the snakes that would invade through holes in the floor have raised a new generation in secure, decent housing.
"It's helped the families to come together," Joe says, "and it helps the community to advance with better education, better health, better family life."
Lala Emile, Democratic Republic of Congo
In war-affected Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a house means more than a shelter. It represents and symbolizes physical, economical and spiritual security and pride.
Lala Emile, 61, an automobile mechanic, calls himself "one of the luckiest inhabitants" of Mongafula, a suburb of Kinshasa.Thanks to Habitat for Humanity DRC, he is a homeowner. His house, comprising four bedrooms and a living room with an external bathroom, became his in August 1988. He provided manual labor to construct the house with materials supplied by HFH DRC. He now lives in the house with his children aged between 13 and 34 years.
Though the family is now a bit crowded, Emile is grateful he is no longer at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who will do everything, from threats to humiliations, to get their monthly rents.To be a tenant in Kinshasa, with its annual 14 percent inflation rate and salaries that are not only insufficient but irregularly paid, one has to be more than a "magician" to make ends meet. Emile summarized his satisfaction and gratitude to the HFH DRC team that visited him: "To have one's own house guarantees safety, honor and dignity."
--Komla Dabla Folly