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Photo finish -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Photo finish

Announcing the winner and top four finalists in the 2010 Habitat World photo contest



Neil Reid

Dromore, Co-Down, Northern Ireland

My journey with Habitat began in 2006, when I took part in the Carter Work Project based in Lonavala, India. I was truly inspired not only by the prospective homeowners, whom we worked alongside in the searing temperatures, but also by the attitudes and personalities of the other volunteers from all corners of the globe. There was a real sense of purpose in everyone I met and—although at times, my Irish accent may have been a little difficult for the others to follow—strong and lasting friendships were formed from day one.

This build really got me thinking about life and where I saw myself in the grand scheme of things. I recall growing up in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles” and learning of the terrible devastation at home and abroad caused by both man and nature. Home, for me, was always a place of security and sanctuary, and I remember thinking, “What if that wasn’t the case for me. How would my life have been different?” These thoughts inspired me to do whatever I could to make a difference in people’s lives.

As I continue to volunteer, currently with Habitat Mozambique’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children program, I see what a difference a new home can bring to the lives of those less fortunate. To me, my photo “New Hope” summarizes all that Habitat stands for. We see a group of children, all of whom have a new home and all of whom have been given a new start in life. Someone very close to me described this photo as capturing a range of emotions: “love, pride, joy, success, with a sense of belonging mixed in with a little bit of mischief.”

I truly hope my photograph will inspire even one person to undertake a trip with Habitat and help give a little something back. You will undoubtedly receive back tenfold what you put in.



Laurie Davis

Kent, Wash.

These mottled green paintbrushes caught my eye the very first day of our Women Build project in East Tacoma, Wash. The brushes were obviously well-worn, and I envisioned the many volunteers’ hands that had held them before. They were hanging on a fence to dry and looked like a string of fish. My thoughts immediately turned to the saying that giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching a man to fish feeds him for a lifetime. At that instant, I realized that the paintbrushes were a parable for everything that Habitat represents and a symbol of the very reason I volunteer. The image was so simple and the message so powerful that I was compelled to take this photo.

I have experienced this same transformation and have witnessed it in the women I have worked with at our local build sites. To frame a wall, hang a door or install a window involves a community of volunteers willing to share their knowledge with ones less experienced. Each task lays the foundation for yet another and another, until the last piece of trim is painted with a mottled green paintbrush—and the house becomes a home.



Bob Carey

Thousand Oaks, Calif.

As a Habitat construction volunteer, I’ve often reflected that as we work on homes, we worry about nailing schedules, framing details, construction codes and getting everything right. Sometimes, it’s not until we have a dedication ceremony that what we are all doing comes into focus. Then, all the work—identification of the land, selection of the family, securing of donations, and the actual labor by the family and volunteers—comes to fruition.

We gathered to dedicate two attached homes in Oxnard, Calif., shortly before Christmas 2009. During the ceremony, Stacy Swanson, Ventura County Habitat’s executive director, recounted all the time and effort by city officials, donors, Habitat staff and volunteers to replace a blighted structure with new Habitat homes, dramatically improving the entire neighborhood.

Finally, it was time to give the Hernandez family their house keys. I expected Stacy to give the keys to the father and mother, but instead she reached down and handed them to their 6-year-old daughter Catarina, who smiled proudly and held up the keys.

It was a simple, spontaneous moment, but as I took the photo, I felt that Catarina’s big smile expressed not only her joy, but also captured the spirit of Habitat.



Emily Rogers

Detroit, Mich.

The August 2008 Metro Denver Habitat for Humanity Home Builders Blitz was a one-week build of four homes in Aurora, Colo. This image was one of the last photographs I took, after the dedication ceremony on the final day.

Each of the four families hosted welcoming parties in their new homes. It was a time when everyone felt the camaraderie of accomplishment. The street had become a community of new friends.

To me, this photograph represents the purpose of a home. A place where children can grow and play in a safe environment. Where the simple activity of chasing a balloon in the front yard is possible. To me, there is nothing more valuable in the world than the time spent at home with family. The excitement on the children’s faces truly communicates the feeling that they are home. This is the kind of moment you feel lucky to be a part of, and I’m glad I was able to capture it.



Marsha E. Williams

Cincinnati, Ohio

The capacity to make a positive difference in someone’s life exists in all people, regardless of age, gender, faith or color.

I named this photo “Fit and Able” because Ruth Overstreet, one of my teammates on a Global Village build in Cambodia, made the very long journey from Alabama to Phnom Penh to help build houses. The long flights, heat and humidity, and often arduous physical labor were tough on me, and I am decades younger than Ruth, who was 80 years old at the time!

However, this photo also reminds me that we are never too old to give of ourselves or push ourselves to make a positive difference. It inspires me to continue finding ways to do so. I hope that I am still fit and able to lay bricks, swing a hammer or twist rebar on Habitat build sites when I’m 80 years old!