Reaching vulnerable groups -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Reaching vulnerable groups

By Jonathan Reckford

In true partnership with God and with those around us, Habitat for Humanity has been making a difference for more than 30 years, touching lives and transforming communities. We’ve been working, “my hand in yours,” as the Egyptian saying goes, to bring shelter opportunities to people in urgent need of housing. At every step along that path, we’ve demonstrated our love for God as we’ve put into action our love and compassion for one another.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus addresses this point. He is asked, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” Or, we could add, “When did we see you in need of a decent place to sleep and help shelter you?”

The reply: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me.”

We are called to this wonderful, God-led movement so that we can “do for the least” of our neighbors—that we might “do” for our Lord. Our mission provides the perfect opportunity to embody compassion, in respectful partnership with one another and with those we serve.

As you’ll find in the following pages, this edition of “The Forum” explores some of the ways Habitat partners around the world are reaching out to families in need, particularly vulnerable groups in especially urgent need of shelter.

We don’t have to look far to find children and parents who daily confront extraordinary situations that make life exceedingly difficult—even beyond the challenges of a life in poverty. While in Bucharest, for example, I visited Roma families who not only face extreme poverty and housing hardships on a constant basis, but they struggle with other factors such as discrimination, mistrust and suspicion. In Africa, I’ve encountered stories of women who, having lost their husbands, lose their homes as well because they have no property rights. Consequently, they find themselves, along with their children, on the street.

All across the globe, particularly in Africa, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and other diseases, are forced to grow up far too quickly and to confront, at a young age, what most of us can only imagine at any season of our lives.

Our commitment is to find more ways of reaching out to vulnerable groups. Our commitment is to shelter them respectfully and compassionately as we demonstrate in all that we do the unfailing love of Jesus Christ.

Poverty is a daily challenge any day of the week, to say nothing of the additional layers of hardship that accompany it for countless families across the globe. Families struggling on a dollar or two a day are vulnerable under normal circumstances, not to mention the added burdens of failing health or a lack of human rights. But the solutions we provide in relationship with them are working.

I’m humbled and blessed every day to play some small part in that--to help alleviate the hardship that poverty imposes, the vulnerability that it generates on so many levels—to work with you and with “the least” of my brothers and sisters to help overcome the poverty housing conditions that so harshly cast families into dreadful, unacceptable, intolerable living situations.

And I’m grateful for all that you are doing in partnership toward that end.

Jonathan Reckford is president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.