The importance of partnerships -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The importance of partnerships

By Jonathan Reckford

We need look no further than the vision statement in our own strategic plan to find clear expression of the role partnership plays in this ministry: “Mobilizing people, and financial and social capital, Habitat for Humanity International will demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus Christ by serving as a partner and catalyst for worldwide access to decent, safe, affordable housing.” This means that we should and must work together to fulfill our mission.It means we have to seek, establish and cultivate partnerships between Habitat and the families we want to serve, between HFHI and affiliates, national offices and local organizations, between volunteers, donors, churches and community groups, government agencies, corporations and other development organizations whose missions complement ours and vice-versa. As we strive to serve another record number of families this year, we will succeed in proportion to our ability to partner well.

There is nothing I enjoy more about my job than experiencing Habitat in the field — it’s so inspiring to see how God is working through Habitat and our partners in transformational ways. I saw a perfect example of this during a recent trip to South America. This is a favorite story because it emphasizes so well our desire to use our gifts to be a part of holistic community transformation.

I traveled to a community called Varjada, about two hours outside of Recife, Brazil, which is one of the country’s poorest regions. Not unlike many poor communities in other parts of the world, women in Varjada often found themselves walking four hours a day to collect water for cooking, bathing and cleaning throughout the long dry season. In addition, “kissing bugs” had infested the substandard housing in the area and infected some of the people living there with Chagas’ disease, which damages internal organs and can lead to death. Confronting that threat and spending so much time gathering water stole from a focus that might have been directed elsewhere. Fortunately, the power of partnership was at work in Varjada.

Like some of her peers in the community, a woman named Severina Guilhermina Ferreira — informally called Dona Tatá — had partnered with Habitat to build a solid, decent brick home. Habitat, with technical assistance from a partner organization called Articulação Semi-árido Brasileiro (ASA) and funding from other partner organizations, then built a cistern at her home and at other Habitat homes nearby.

This meant that Dona Tatá and others in Varjada no longer had to devote so much time each day to gathering the water they needed. With more time on her hands, Dona Tatá could improve her embroidery — a time-honored, but declining, art form in the community. She also helped create an embroidery group with other women in Varjada. World Vision recognized the activity and added a microfinance component to the equation. That has helped many community women develop their craft into an income-generating enterprise. Today they have decent, affordable housing, a means of collecting water at home, more time to apply themselves toward a financial end and the means through which they can reach that end.

Thanks in part to student work teams from São Paulo, a new school is being constructed in the community, as well, providing further opportunities for local children to gain the education they need.

All of this may never have happened without the partnerships that have flourished in Varjada. As servant leaders, we want our neighbors living in poverty to develop holistically; we want their communities to develop holistically. While our focus at Habitat for Humanity always will be housing, we should view it in the context of other needs families have: water, sanitation, employment, education, healthcare and the list goes on. We can’t do that without partnerships. I often reflect on my experience in Varjada as clear evidence of the positive power partnerships can wield. We need look no further than Dona Tatá.

Jonathan Reckford is CEO of HFHI.