This November Habitat for Humanity celebrates its 20 years of work in Gliwice. The opening ceremony of the first house in Gliwice was honored by Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity. Since then, Habitat has served over 750 families in Poland.
Adam Krol and his wife Rhonda were the people who brought Habitat for Humanity to Poland. Adam served as the board president from 1991 to 1999. Since then, he is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Gliwice. His wife Rhonda, now both the US and Polish citizen, teaches English for advanced courses. She has been an active member of the Family Selection Committee for Habitat since the very beginning, served as a secretary of the board for some time too.
Adam and Rhonda talk about Habitat’s past, present and future.
How did you first find out about Habitat for Humanity and what where your thoughts about the organization?
A: We have our famous story dated March 14, 1990, of the Lord’s bringing an article to the ‘attention’ of our 2 year old, Daniel, who was messing around in one of the shelves of old magazines that our sister had left behind. Among them was an article about how to be salt in a low sodium society telling the story of Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and his wife Linda.
Our lives at that time were in transition. Adam as a construction engineer – at this time having research and teaching job at the university, was hoping to do something with special sense in his line of work.
The article talked about the material needs of others that our Lord could reach through various social service missions, which echoed very much also in the heart of Rhonda, who from her home Texas came few years earlier to live and serve in Poland. Habitat was one of the six ministries described, and at once we knew that the need in Poland for housing could find a match in Habitat.
We ourselves had gone through 5 years of living in the blocks and the hopeless situation of having inadequate housing with no way of improvement. We had meanwhile, quite unexpectedly, had our problem solved. However, the very real predicament of Polish families like us became very personal during that time.
Please tell us how did it all start for Habitat for Humanity in Gliwice?
A: The first years were tough, growing together with Habitat, trying to translate the organization to Polish reality and find material resources and people help to accomplish it. And a group of excellent people was found, representing various talents, united in the vision to help eliminate the poverty housing in our particular place.
The response from Habitat for Humanity was enthusiastic too. After meeting the requirements of proving our fundraising abilities and completing the application for the first project in Gliwice, the approval came in early spring 1992. The affiliation document and the Covenant signed then by Millard and Linda Fullers is valued and respected all the time. The land for construction at first generously promised by the municipal council was – due to legal limitation of these years of early democracy in Poland – to be replaced by another land, which took two years of waiting and maturing.
You were the person who brought Habitat to Europe. How do you think the organization evolved? Do you think it has achieved its goals?
A: Yes, and no. Habitat is an ongoing mission to reach those in housing trouble. Fantastic growth in Europe and in the world! There is so much of that still out there. Also, we are sometimes disappointed that the joy of Christian service is not more at the forefront of the work. It’s our whole reason for serving and it is the strength to accomplish it as well. For: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Jesus, Gospel of Luke 18:27, NIV).
Twenty years is a remarkable time spent on helping families and people to have a decent and safe home. How many families did Habitat help in Gliwice?
A: The number of families served by Habitat Gliwice is 217, the 69 families in newly constructed homes in Gliwice, and the rest in renovated/repaired apartments.
What has been the biggest accomplishment of Habitat for Humanity in Gliwice throughout the years?
A: Biggest? In the ranking, when numbers count, in the front of the list there are two multi children families we helped. One family has 2 children of their own and is regularly serving as foster family for various numbers of children – they now live in a newly constructed apartment with 85 square meters within the project in Gliwice. The other family with 9 children has been helped by arranging central heating system and new wiring for their flat. In both cases these people are now happy indeed.
The promotion of Habitat principles and achievements led to a national recognition in the form of an Award of the Best Civil Initiative of the year 2002, founded by the Polish-American Freedom Foundation.
What future projects or programs are being planned?
A: Since 2007, following some changes in HFHI strategy, we started renovation and repair projects both for individual families in drastic need and for housing associations coping with urgent need to repair roofs and common parts of their buildings with very limited funds. This we plan to continue.
In 2010 we started partnerships with charitable organizations caring for homeless people. This is developing presently in five locations within 40 miles radius of Gliwice.
But in our nearest plans there is also a new construction project with target families from the “working poor”. Our experiences so far point to this form of intervention as the most rewarding for our numerous volunteer teams. The input and example of Global Village and corporate teams are tremendous assets in fulfilling the noble mission of Habitat for Humanity, for which we are so grateful. We personally gained so many friendships! After all – Habitat is more than houses!