Habitat

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I have been a member of the Rotary Club of Cochrane for almost a year and a half. A big part of being a member is helping out on community projects. Last Wednesday I was spent a day at the Habitat for Humanity site in Calgary. First a little background on this organization.

"Millard and Linda Fuller founded the Habitat for Humanity movement in 1976 in Americus, Georgia. Built on the idea of partnership housing, Habitat for Humanity volunteers gave a hand up to those in need by working side by side with them to build safe, decent and affordable houses.

The concept that grew into Habitat for Humanity International was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial, Christian community outside of Americus, Georgia. Koinonia Farm was founded in 1942 by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan. The Fullers first visited Koinonia in 1965. They had recently left a successful business and an affluent lifestyle in Montgomery, Alabama to begin a new life of Christian service. At Koinonia, Jordan and Fuller developed the concept of "partnership housing." The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses.

The houses would be built at no profit and interest would not be charged on the loans. Building costs would be financed by a revolving fund called "The Fund for Humanity." The fund's money would come from the new homeowners' house payments, no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fund-raising activities. The monies in the Fund for Humanity would be used to build more houses.

In 1968, Koinonia laid out 42 half-acre house sites with four acres reserved as a community park and recreational area. Capital was donated from around the country to start the work. Homes were built and sold to families in need at no profit and no interest. The basic model of Habitat for Humanity was begun.

In 1973, the Fullers decided to apply the Fund for Humanity concept in developing countries. The Fuller family moved to Mbandaka, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo.) The Fullers' goal was to offer affordable yet adequate shelter to 2,000 people. After three years of hard work to launch a successful house building program, the Fullers returned to the United States.

In September 1976, Millard and Linda called together a group of supporters to discuss the future of their dream. Habitat for Humanity International as an organization was born at this meeting. The eight years that followed, vividly described in Millard Fuller's book, "Love in the Mortar Joints," proved that the vision of a housing ministry was workable. Faith, hard work and direction set HFHI on its successful course.

In 1984, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn took their first Habitat work trip, the Jimmy Carter Work Project, to New York City. Their personal involvement in Habitat's ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat's work across the nation. HFHI experienced a dramatic increase in the number of new affiliates around the country.

In 1985, the movement spread to Canada with the first Canadian build in Winkler, Manitoba. Two years later, Winnipeg became home to the first Canadian affiliate. Habitat for Humanity in Canada has since grown to 69 affiliates in 10 provinces and two territories and has successfully provided over 2,000 families with safe, decent and affordable housing.

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has built, rehabilitated, repaired or improved more than 500,000 houses worldwide - providing shelter for more than 2 million people."

I was picked up at 7.30am and we headed into Calgary. Fellow Rotarians Derek, Don and I arrived at the house in the South East of the city. This is a renovation project and the first thing foreman Kent did was to give us a safety talk. There were a number of Rotarians from Calgary West and we were all instructed on the main safety gear: steel toe boots, gloves and hard hat.

Work rotations were set for the day and our team was given the task of dry walling. Our first job was to carry 30 sheets of dry wall into the house. This got the blood flowing. Next we had to dry wall a closet by the front door. The golden rule is "measure twice, cut once", the silver rule is "measure twice, cut twice" and the bronze rule is "make it fit". During the day we practiced all three rules.

Lunch was at noon and it was down tools. We chatted with the group who had been working in the basement. They had framed up a wall and were in the process of installing it. Several of these Rotarians had worked on a number of habitat projects. The houses last year were new builds and families had moved into them before the winter.

At the end of the day we did a major clean up and put the tools away. We thanked foreman Kent and headed home. It didn't seem like we'd done a lot but there would be another group of volunteers coming in the next day to continue. By the end of the summer the renovation will be complete and a family will move in. This family could not have afforded a home without the help of Habitat and all the volunteers. Now that's a job well done.

Quote of the Day

"What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step."

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Working hard or hardly working. Don, Derek and myself, at the end of the work day, at the Habitat house in Calgary

Habitat

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