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The eyes of a child -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The eyes of a child

Felicia Brannon, a volunteer from Los Angeles, California, has been on several building trips with Habitat for Humanity.
©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Building together provides a new perspective and new hope
By Teresa K. Weaver


New beginnings in Nicaragua (slideshow)


Sherling Góngora Arauz wrote a heartfelt note to the dozen U.S. volunteers who helped build her family’s new home in Managua, Nicaragua. “When you leave, there is an empty space in my heart.”
©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein


Ten-year-old Sherling Góngora Arauz found it hard to express her feelings at the dedication of her family’s new Habitat for Humanity house in Managua, Nicaragua.

She could only cry. She had written a letter to the volunteers who helped build her family’s house, though, and it was read aloud in English. The last line: “When you leave, there is an empty space in my heart.”

By then, everybody on the build site was in tears.

“The little girl just started hugging everybody,” said Helen Usera, a 42-year-old management consultant in Rapid City, South Dakota, who was one of a dozen volunteers who paid their way to Nicaragua to build and to advocate for decent housing.

“When we started to pray over the family’s new home, Sherling just clung to me. It was so genuine and so emotional. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is why we’re here.’

“At that moment, it wasn’t about the adults anymore. Those two young children — Sherling and her brother — were going to have a concrete floor, a solid home. That’s what it’s all about.”

‘An insider viewpoint’

Sherling and 3-year-old Samuel and their parents, Rosario and Michael, had been living in a one-room structure — three walls and a tarp — in a barrio called Sol de Libertad in Managua. Michael works long hours in transportation, while Rosario takes care of the children. They had little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and showing their children a better future.

But in December 2012, a volunteer team from Habitat for Humanity’s Build Louder program helped Rosario and Michael create a new home and a new beginning for their family.

The Build Louder program adds an educational component to Habitat’s standard Global Village trips. In addition to spending one or two weeks building with families in need of shelter, Build Louder teams learn about poverty and housing policies and become better advocates for shelter issues that affect entire communities and countries.

“When people come on these trips, they not only see the incredible need, but they also meet the people that we serve,” said Jose Quinonez, director of advocacy capacity building at Habitat for Humanity International. “With the right tools and the right information, they can take what they’ve learned and go to people that can make a difference — government officials, other organizations and corporations. That connection makes them better advocates for decent housing worldwide.

“Once they understand shelter issues on a very deep, personal level, they are energized to do whatever they can to change all the policies that trap people in poverty housing.”

Next: ‘There are no limitations’
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