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Habitat for Humanity shares stories through homeowner youth essay contest

AMERICUS, Ga. (June 5, 2008) — Winners of Habitat for Humanity’s first “Building the Future: Homeowner Youth Essay Contest” were selected this week. The essay competition, sponsored by Habitat for Humanity International’s Volunteer Mobilization department, asked children of Habitat partner families, ages 8 to 25, to write an essay describing, “What my Habitat home means to me.”

Habitat for Humanity congratulates the following winners for their heartfelt entries: Alyxis Smith of Virginia, first place winner, ages 8-14 category; Logan Bachinski of California, second place, ages 8-14 category; Josephine Pacheco of Oregon, first place, ages 15-19; Patty Enriquez of Oregon, second place, ages 15-19; Brittany Richey of Virginia, third place, ages 15-19; and Charisse James of North Carolina, ages 20-25 category.

Youth from all over the country shared their stories for this first essay contest. Winners younger than 15 were awarded gift certificates to the Habitat online store, while those 15 and up received money toward a Habitat Global Village or Youth Immersion trip. Additionally, winners had the option of donating their prize to the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate that partnered with the family to build their home.

Many of the submitted essay entries described the impact a Habitat home has had on the authors’ lives, contrasting their experiences before and after moving into their home.

“I moved 10 times from the ages of 1 to 9 and, in the process, I developed a horrible fear of change. For nine years, on and off, I lived with my five siblings and my mother in a one-bedroom trailer where the tub was falling though the floor. I lived in constant fear that I would come home from school to find the trailer crumbled into heaping piles of rubble,” wrote winner Josephine Pacheco. “My Habitat home means security because I know it’s healthier; I know that I can always come home and that Habitat for Humanity cares about what happens to my family.”

The stories also celebrated the joys and comfort of having a safe home. Alyxis Smith, who received first prize in the 8 to 14 age category, wrote, “I am glad for my Habitat home. Now I have a room I can paint pink with ‘High School Musical’ stuff. It will be so cool. My new friends are going to be my neighbors. We’ll have all kinds of fun … my Mommy [and I] used to lie in bed at bedtime and pretend how our house will look. It is all mine and nobody can hurt us.”

Contest organizer and Habitat AmeriCorps member Bobby McMahon notes the significance of seeing Habitat’s work through the eyes of participating partner families. “Their experiences are truly inspirational, reminding us why the ministry of Habitat for Humanity is needed in our world.”

Habitat for Humanity International’s Volunteer Mobilization department organized the essay contest to highlight the unique and touching stories of Habitat homeowners. Habitat’s Youth Programs department, part of Volunteer Mobilization, seeks to capture the imagination, energy and hope of young people worldwide to productively and responsibly involve them as leaders in the work of Habitat. State Farm® is the 2008 underwriter for Habitat’s Youth Programs. Visit www.habitatyouthprograms.org for more information and to view all winning essays.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 250,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1 million people. For more information, visit www.habitat.org.