To learn more, visit habitatyouthbuild.org .
By Sneh Koticha, Habitat for Humanity India’s Youth BUILD volunteer leader and ambassador
My life changed forever on my first ever Habitat for Humanity build in Kovalam, a town on India’s most southwestern coastline. As part of a social studies field trip, my fellow 16-year-old classmates and I were building a home alongside a local low-income family and spent each day carrying bricks and constructing walls.
On the first day, I met the family — mother, father, two sons and a daughter — who had been living in a kutcha house, a makeshift structure of mud and hay that is particularly vulnerable to any bad weather. In our conversations, I learned that while the two sons went to school, the daughter accompanied her mother to work. I assumed that this was because, as is common across India, sons are held in higher regard.
It was much to my surprise, then, to be greeted by her the next day at the build site, smiling and holding up her school uniform. She had enrolled in school! Her father explained to me that it simply wasn’t safe to leave their daughter alone in a kutcha house, which is why she accompanied her mother to work. Now that they were getting a new home that was safe, she could go to school and return to her house without worry while her parents were still at work.
Habitat staff had told me of the causal link between improved living conditions and better life chances, but here it was presented to me so plainly. In just one day, she had taken a major step in ensuring that her future was full of more opportunities than her mother’s, who never went to school.
And this is why I continued my involvement with Habitat beyond that first build. A home is where life starts; it is the base from which people develop their full potential.
On May 12, hundreds of young people in India will come together in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore to build houses alongside low-income families as part of Habitat Youth BUILD, joining thousands of others doing the same thing elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region. I know, from that day onwards, thousands of lives also will have changed forever.