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Field notes: March 2009 -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Field notes: March 2009

Perspectives from around Habitat’s world



Two houses, infinite inspiration

In November, Habitat for Humanity celebrated a major milestone, raising walls on the homebuilding organization’s 300,000th and 300,001st houses since it was founded in 1976. The 300,000th house—located in Naples, Florida—will be the home of Medelsonne and Rose Garraux, whose family of five has been living in a two-bedroom apartment that costs about 40 percent of the family’s income. Their housing costs will be reduced by nearly a third when they move into their new Habitat home.

A day after Habitat for Humanity of Collier County began the Garraux family’s house, volunteers in Zacapa, Guatemala, broke ground on the 300,001st house, signaling Habitat’s ongoing commitment to creating simple, decent housing around the world. Everson Galdamez and his wife Wendy Liliana Pérez will be the owners of the Guatemala home. The family’s current bamboo-frame house will come down so that Habitat staff, donors, volunteers and homeowners can build a sturdy and attractive cinderblock home in its place.



Gateway to Change: Habitat’s second Youth Leadership Conference shared skills, support in St. Louis

By Shelly Whittet

In early November, the second annual Youth Leadership Conference brought together nearly 350 young people, advisers, affiliate representatives and Habitat for Humanity International staff in St. Louis.

Young people involved in the Campus Chapters, Collegiate Challenge and Youth United programs—and those who support them—gathered to develop skills and find new ways to support Habitat. HFHI staff and youth group representatives presented more than three dozen workshops on fund-raising, membership engagement and retention, advocacy, service-learning, and more.

Representatives from State Farm, the underwriter of Habitat’s youth programs, attended the conference to lead workshops on topics including development of corporate partnerships and financial literacy and also presented awards during a banquet recognizing outstanding campus chapters, Youth United groups, chapter liaisons, State Farm Matching Grants winners and Collegiate Challenge MVPs. Twelve-year-old A.J. Holland, a Habitat Durham Youth United member whose family became Habitat homeowners in 2006, and 10-year-old Kaitlin Thorpe, a Youth United member who helped raise funds for the Hollands’ home, inspired the audience with their enthusiasm and commitment to Habitat. “If we can do it, you can do it,” said the young pair.

“The past three days have been an amazing experience for me,” said Habitat Greater Los Angeles’ Youth United chairperson Kate Sim. “It was an opportunity for me to see that three hundred other people cared about the things I was passionate about.”

Passing the Torch in Pretoria: New area vice president named for Habitat’s Africa/Middle East office

By Teresa K. Weaver

Greg Foster, new area vice president for Habitat for Humanity’s Africa and the Middle East office, brings to the job more than 20 years of experience in international development and a tireless passion for serving the poorest of the poor.

A native of New Zealand, Foster began his career as a program coordinator for at-risk youth in Christchurch. For the next 15 years, he worked with the Mennonite Central Committee and other relief organizations, managing development work in Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan and Tanzania. Among many honors, he received the 1990 New Zealand Commemorative Medal, awarded by Queen Elizabeth for his services to young people.

For the past year and a half, Foster has been regional director of Habitat’s East Africa and Middle East region, which exceeded all targets for the number of families served in 2008.

In his new role, Foster will oversee operations in the Africa/Middle East office, based in Pretoria, South Africa, and provide support to all the national organizations.

“I just see so much potential to grow the program,” Foster says. “I see a very positive future. We have good housing programs in Africa and the Middle East. Now we have to be sure we challenge ourselves, internally and externally, to become a more cutting-edge housing provider.”

Foster replaces former area vice president Matthew Maury, who has taken on a new challenge as CEO of TEAR Australia, a Christian organization that works to empower poor people in their communities. Maury had been with Habitat since 1991, beginning as a field project manager in Kafue, Zambia.

“In the region that birthed Habitat for Humanity,” Maury said, “it is exciting to see how we have been able to continue to find new and innovative ways to reach out to some of the poorest communities in the world and offer them tangible expressions of hope.

“While I am leaving full-time employment, I look forward to continuing to find ways to get involved volunteering with HFHI’s global mission,” he added.