500,000 universal truths

By former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

When Rosalynn and I first became involved with Habitat for Humanity in 1984, we were thrilled to discover such a tangible way to put our religious faith into practical application. That first year, we helped begin renovation on a six-story apartment building in New York City. The following summer, we took another 27-hour bus ride back to New York to help other volunteers and partner families complete the remaining work.

Those trips formed the beginning of an annual tradition for Rosalynn and me. Every year since then, we’ve spent at least a week traveling with volunteers to assist Habitat projects in a dozen countries and dozens of different cities.

Today, 27 years after our first Habitat experience, we are rejoicing in the news that Habitat has helped 500,000 families achieve what I consider a basic human right: a safe, decent home.

Through my own volunteer hours, I have come to realize that the Habitat model works because it recognizes a universal truth that applies to volunteer and homeowner alike: Each of us has a hunger to make our only God-given life significant. We all have the same wants for ourselves and our children — a better life, one that’s filled with excitement and challenge, hope and self-respect, a better prospect for the future.

Habitat provides a simple but powerful avenue for people of different backgrounds to come together to achieve those most meaningful things in life. A decent home, yes, but also a genuine bond with our fellow human beings. A bond that comes with the building up of walls and the breaking down of barriers.

Today, on World Habitat Day, I am proud to congratulate everyone who has contributed to Habitat’s escalating success. You are involved in a world-changing ministry, and I hope you keep seeking those exhilarating, life-changing moments among friends on the worksite.

This fall, Rosalynn and I will once again seek those moments as we join hundreds of other volunteers heading to Haiti, where we will help create 100 new houses with Haitian families rebuilding their lives. We hope you will find your own way to continue supporting Habitat — for the next 500,000 houses and beyond.