Four volunteers build with four families across four continents
Volunteers choose to build homes with Habitat for Humanity for many reasons — from wanting to connect with others to learning a new skill.
For Thrivent Financial and its more than 2 million members, the reason is personal: Building is an actionable way to show and share their faith with their neighbors and the world. For more than 100 years, Thrivent, a member-owned insurance and financial services organization, has advised its members to be wise with money and be good stewards of the gifts God has given them.
One of the ways it has encouraged members to live into that advice is by building with Habitat in the U.S. and abroad. To date, the partnership has resulted in a total of more than 5.8 million volunteer hours and more than $260 million donated to improve the quality of life of people around the world through improved housing.
Four Thrivent members — with thousands of volunteer hours across hundreds of build sites among them — recently made this mission personal while crisscrossing the globe to build with Habitat families on four continents. In their own words, these dedicated volunteers share why they volunteer and give us a glimpse of their latest volunteer experience.
Finding inspiration in Paraguay
Home state: Iowa
Volunteer experience: Team member and leader on a combination of nearly 20 Habitat, Thrivent Worldwide and Global Village builds — from Fiji to El Salvador.
“These projects are so fulfilling and energizing for me — plus they reflect my core beliefs. My signature Bible verse since I was young is Matthew 5:16, ‘Let your light shine before others so they can see your good work, and glorify God.’ For me, this means that I am driven to show God’s love to others through my actions. This is how they can best see God.
“I look forward to several aspects of each trip but learning about life in other countries and feeling like I’ve made an impact are the central motivations for me. I was intrigued by the unique language and culture that set Paraguay apart from the rest of South America. And Paraguay is not identified as a key ‘tourist’ attraction, which feeds my values even more because I don’t go there as a tourist. I go there with focus on the specific community of people and accompany them in the process of building a home and changing their lives.
They are faith journeys where I can learn from other people, see the world, and witness to others through my work about the faith and values that motivate me.”
Responding to disaster at home
Home state: Wisconsin
Volunteer experience: Alongside husband, Chuck, has built with Habitat and Thrivent Worldwide internationally and domestically since 2007.
“No matter where my husband and I are, our primary purpose is to work with families who need safe, decent, affordable housing at a time when current circumstances prevent them from having this foundational necessity.
“In Texas, the home of Lawrence and Elnora — an 80-year-old couple who have been married 59 years — received severe water damage during Hurricane Harvey flooding, resulting in excess mold and structural damage. Many of us unfamiliar with hurricanes and flooding were struck by the road sign that measures floodwaters not by inches, but by feet. Lawrence and Elnora were moved into a FEMA trailer and, while we were there on our build week, learned that their damaged home had been condemned by the municipality and scheduled for demolition. This gave our team members a greater sense of purpose to serve.
“The image that sticks with us from the week is that of Lawrence and Elnora’s beaming smiles as it began to dawn on them that they would be in their new Habitat home by Christmas. It’s such a blessing to be a blessing to others.”
The power of community in Malawi
Home state: South Carolina
Volunteer experience: A licensed contractor who builds to travel and travels to build — Wes has served in Habitat and Thrivent Worldwide and Global village trips including four builds in Malawi.
“Each time I go, I am lifted. The day we arrive at our worksite in Malawi, the whole village comes out and welcomes us with dance and song. That’s such a great feeling. From my first trip to my latest, this always impresses me. It gets me excited about the week ahead.
“In Malawi, we built with Mzifeyi, a 61-year-old small-scale farmer who talked about how she’s so grateful she has a house with an actual roof. Now, when it’s raining while she’s out working in the field, she has a place to come to get out of the rain. Before, it would be raining inside her house. ‘I couldn’t tell the difference between the outside and the inside of the house during rainy season because they all look alike,’ she told us.
“The change the roof alone can provide is like night and day. She can stay dry. Stay healthy. Her three grandchildren, whom she cares for since her daughter died, can do their homework. It makes a difference — and the whole village notices. They all pitch in for their neighbor, which is really special to see. By the end, we are all invested and all part of this community.”
A lasting impact in Thailand
Home state: California
Volunteer experience: Once a regular volunteer in Guatemala (10 years running), he’s now a nomad who spends three to four months each year traveling to new countries to volunteer. Kevin has built with Habitat and Thrivent Global Village since 2017.
“Kasem and his wife, Pratin, their daughter and two grandchildren are moving from an old two-room corrugated house where they all lived. After years of hoping, they will be the owners of a strong concrete block and steel roof two-bedroom home, with an indoor bathroom and large living room. This is a life-changing event for each of them — one which we were lucky to be involved in.
“While we were there, we built up block walls, poured a concrete floor, finished a patio area and installed a septic tank. By Friday, we were in good shape — the house nearly complete — for the most significant moment of the week: the final ceremony with the homeowners whom we had been working side by side with all week long. This is the moment that touches everyone and keeps bringing volunteers back time and time again. Everyone has a chance to express their sentiments and feelings.
“Everywhere I build, there is always a sense of marvel by the new homeowner that these new friends have traveled so far to help them, even in some small way, make improvements to their living conditions. Pictures are taken of the homeowners and the team together, hugs are exchanged, wishes of great futures to come expressed by all. We have the joy of leaving behind a home ready for its new inhabitants. The new homeowners have the joy of writing a new family history.”