Ripple effect

Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEOWhen many of us think about the home where we grew up, we recall a place where we learned some important basics: unconditional love from our family, life skills for shaping our future, and the give and take of being part of a community.

At Habitat for Humanity, we believe that having a safe and stable home is foundational. Home is where everything starts. The reality is that if children don’t live in decent homes, the odds of their staying healthy plummet. If they’re not healthy, they don’t get educated; and if they don’t get an education, they don’t get decent jobs, meaning they won’t be able to break out of the stranglehold of poverty.

A decent home is at the center of every important issue, and it has a multiplier effect. Mary Zar, who grew up in a Habitat home in Louisiana, tells us in this issue that once she had that stable place to go home to, everything could change.

In South Carolina, homeowner Tina Oglesby took advantage of an educational fund started at Oconee County Habitat to earn her nursing degree. This single mother of three has not only changed her life, but she has influenced the lives of her children, who have witnessed her hard work and determination.

In Recife, Brazil, I recently met Tania, a 65-year-old woman who simply needed fresh air. Poor ventilation and mold caused her to suffer from asthma and repeated bouts of pneumonia. In 2012, Habitat Brazil’s The Future Begins at Home project enabled Tania to access microcredit to improve her home.

With Habitat’s help, she created more ventilation in the house, put in a window, replaced the roof and insulated her bedroom walls. Since the work was done, she has not suffered from pneumonia once and has been able to focus on recovering from all those years of respiratory problems.

Just like dropping a pebble in a quiet pond, one action in support of affordable housing creates results that extend far beyond what we could imagine. And the ripples create positive changes that affect more people than the individual families Habitat directly serves.

I have seen what happens when making one improvement in a neighborhood captures the attention, excitement and vision of others. Affordable housing is Habitat’s contribution, but we are only one part of exciting efforts that are changing lives and transforming communities. Imagine the ripple effect where you live — or in a neighborhood half a world away. Then drop your pebble.

Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO