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Character building -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Character building

Stone Soup cartoonist and Habitat supporter Jan Eliot traveled to Thailand for the 2009 Carter Work Project—and brought one of her comic strip characters along for the experience.

Stone Soup © 2010 Jan Eliot/Dist. by Universal Uclick

HABITAT WORLD: How did you first become involved with Habitat?
: Years ago, I wrote a story line for (characters) Holly and Alix, which involved them going to California over spring break. They believed they’d be having a fun beach vacation, but discovered that they’d be helping build a “charity house.” Holly resented having to “help some loser family” during her spring break, until she met a girl her age who was part of that family. The story was an opportunity for Holly to grow a bit.

While it sounded a bit harsh, it was the “some loser family” line that caught the attention of Habitat. The story line served to point out that this is a false assumption. Habitat asked to reprint the strips, and a relationship was forged.

: When did you fi rst have the idea for Gramma to travel to Thailand for the Carter Work Project? Give us a general outline of the story arc you’ve created.
: I was scheduled to travel to Chiang Mai (for the 2009 Carter Work Project) in mid-November. At the same time, I was invited to fly to Algeria and participate in an International Cartoon Exhibition in mid-October.

Travel or no, I still have daily Stone Soup deadlines. So I decided that one fun way to have lots of material in all this was to have Gramma go on the trip to Chiang Mai.

I began the story with Gramma being a bit bored. She’s looking for a way to get away, but is not drawn to cruises or traveling alone. In the middle of her search, she is e-mailed by friends she made years ago while volunteering in Africa (a Stone Soup storyline from 2005). They invite her to Chiang Mai to participate in a Habitat build. She realizes this is the perfect opportunity at this point in her life.

In addition, there’s a hint of romance as we discover that Arnold, a man she became attached to in Africa, will also be working on the build in Chiang Mai. Brushing off all concerns, Gramma leaves home for another adventure.

At this point, Gramma is gone for an indefinite amount of time. She’ll be leaving Thailand but heading off to Nepal for the next project. Will Arnold be going, too? Will she ever come home? You’ll have to follow Stone Soup and see.

: What do you hope Stone Soup fans take away from Gramma’s experiences with Habitat?
: First, that volunteering is a joyful thing. Second, that age is no barrier (to volunteering or romance). Third, that the world is full of amazing opportunities and experiences, despite all the bad news we hear every day.

To see more Carter Work Project-related
Stone Soup comics, visit To read Jan Eliot’s blog, which includes information about her involvement with Habitat, visit