Jonathan and Alexander Reckford flank Habitat Jordan homeowners Mahmoud Jarwan Alawneh and Myaser Mohammed.
By Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO
Several times today, I have stood back and marveled. On this build site on the outskirts of Irbid, Jordan (about 70 kilometers or 44 miles north of Amman), I am just a dad — watching another dad who wants better things for his family.
I am accompanying a team of very energetic but focused high school juniors and seniors from Pace Academy in Atlanta. They have come to Jordan to help build the school’s 21st Habitat for Humanity home, the first outside the Atlanta area. My son, Alexander, is one of the students, and with two previous international builds under his belt, he is quite adept at mixing cement by hand and laying block.
It truly warms my heart to see these young men and women work so hard alongside 72-year-old Mahmoud Jarwan Alawneh, his wife and children to create a better, healthier place to live. Currently, Mahmoud and his family are living together in one room that serves as a living/sleeping area, kitchen and bathroom. The new home will have two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom.
It snowed several days last week here, a rare event. Sunday was cold and rainy, but Monday was spectacular in every way. We made much more progress than expected, and I loved hearing the comments from the students. What was a rough outline of the rooms is now a set of walls five blocks high, and the smiles and tears of Mahmoud's wife will stay with me for a long time.
I see real compassion and determination in the eyes of these young volunteers. We are miles from home in a place where we don’t speak the language and we are sleeping on the floor at night. But none of that seems to matter. Right now they are all about helping their new friends.
The student body president from Pace happens to be Jordanian-American, and she is on the trip. She told me that for all the times she had visited Jordan, this was the first time she had been in a small community like this and had the opportunity to get to know families living in such different circumstances. We’ve loved having her fluent Arabic ability, but this kind of learning is what is so special about the way Habitat brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.