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‘Are you going to make a difference?’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

‘Are you going to make a difference?’

Since he retired, Irving Hall has traveled the world building and funding Habitat houses. In 2011, he was one of the oldest volunteers on the
Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Léogâne, Haiti. ©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker


Since moving into a new Habitat house that they helped build, Juan and Greys Garcia and their three children have better health
and newfound security.
©Habitat for Humanity Guatemala/Jamil Barton


The Lem family moved into their new Habitat house in 2012. ©Habitat for Humanity Guatemala/Jamil Barton


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A 500-home Guatemala Dream Project started with a simple question

By Phil Kloer

For 14 years, Juan and Greys Garcia lived near Salama, Guatemala, in an adobe house with a leaky, dilapidated tile roof and thin, unstable walls. Their children — Walter, Maria and Maria Guadalupe — frequently got sick from the dampness.

After qualifying for a home with Habitat for Humanity, Juan, a farmer, served as the mason on the construction of a new house for his family. Greys was his assistant, mixing cement and carrying concrete blocks. The children pitched in as well.

Their new home is safer, Juan said, “because we do not have to worry about the walls collapsing anymore.”

The seed for the Garcia family’s Habitat home was planted 19 years ago in Albuquerque, N.M.

Irving Hall was retiring from his job as a data analyst for Sandia National Laboratories, a prestigious contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy and other agencies.

“When I retired, we had a little coffee on my last day,” recalled Hall, now 79 years old. “My director stopped by, and he posed the question: ‘What are you going to do now that you’re retired, Irv? Are you going to do something to make a difference?’”

“I still remember very vividly his question. I used to think of it every day at the end of the day: Did I do anything to make a difference?”

That’s why he decided to build.


Before they moved into their Habitat house, Jose and Laura Lem lived with their
6-year-old son, Yuri, in the home of Laura’s parents, where 12 people shared three bedrooms. “The house lacked privacy and personal space, and everyone would be touching our things,” said Laura, a first-grade teacher. Their new Habitat home sits on land near her parents’ home. “Our life now is so much more comfortable and more peaceful,” Laura said. “There is more space, and I have a place to grade homework.”

Irv and Lois Hall began working with Habitat after Greater Albuquerque Habitat for Humanity approached his Lutheran church to suggest a partnership.

Together, they started building houses locally, and then expanded, traveling the world on Habitat Global Village trips and Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Projects.

Eventually, the Halls created the Guatemala Dream Project. In 2005, they sponsored and helped build five houses, and then expanded year after year. In 2012, the project dedicated its 500th home, all of them funded either by the Halls themselves or through money they helped raise — a total investment of more than $1.3 million.

The Halls never intended such a massive undertaking.

“It’s like the mustard seed that starts out as a very small seed but it grows to a very large plant,” Hall said. “Our program started out pretty small, and it grew and grew.”