HABITAT FOR HUMANITY INTERNATIONAL (March 1, 2011) – Women from all walks of life come together to help build and renovate houses, changing lives in the process — often, their own.
Actress and Carter Work Project volunteer
On a purely selfish level, I get such a sense of accomplishment seeing the houses go up. I work in a business where what I create is often fleeting and amorphous, so it feels great to create something solid like a roof.
Before I went on a build, I could barely change a lightbulb on my own. Now, if something needs to be fixed in my apartment, I don’t immediately call the super anymore; I have the confidence to solve the problem on my own. I feel this has extended to other areas of my life as well. The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Habitat builds is that there’s more than one way to skin a cat. There’s never one “right” way to do something, even when you’re building a house from very specific plans.
And — of course — measure twice, cut once!
Singer/songwriter and Habitat volunteer
I wrote my song “A House, A Home” after my first Habitat experience. If, when a person listens, they are reminded that it’s about creating a safe place where the people and the love inside the home are the most important thing — and not the stuff — then the connection I hoped to make will have been successful. I hope it inspires and reminds them of what really matters at the end of the day — LOVE! If there is love at home, then there will be love in the world when we step out our front doors.
Despite my disbelief at first, I learned that by the end of a build, an entire house is in fact going to be constructed by people, some of whom have never even swung a hammer. From my participation with Habitat, I have experienced the impact of a person serving and being a part of something larger than themselves.
Entertainment journalist and Habitat volunteer
I support Habitat for Humanity because it allowed my mom to fulfill her dream of owning her own home. She built it with her own two hands and still to this day holds so much pride for achieving this lifelong goal.
While I was growing up, there was a lot of love and support no matter where we were living, but my family lived with my grandma or in rented apartments — we never had a house to call our own. It wasn’t until I left for college that my mom was given the amazing opportunity to build her own home. I’m grateful that while I never lived in this home, my younger siblings had a house to grow up in.
To be on site is my way of paying it forward, and it’s such a gratifying experience to know that in a small way I’m helping to make other families’ dreams come true!
Former governor of Michigan and Habitat volunteer
I think it’s always important for leaders to walk the talk. My husband Dan and I saw members of our family helping with a Habitat build after Hurricane Katrina. We decided to encourage our family and our friends to build up the state they came from and to foster a brighter future for Michiganians in need. Our Michigan family build was a family reunion. We went back to the neighborhood Dan’s mother was from. This really gave people a chance to have something very specific that they were focused on while reconnecting. I felt very fortunate to be able to become the expert on the miter saw for the baseboards and the molding.
It is an empowering thing to be able to build your own home; it is an empowering thing to learn how to pick up a hammer or use a miter saw or install a sink or make sure that the landscaping is done well. Allowing women to wear a tool belt and to demystify the carpentry of their home gives them a huge sense of not just ownership but power over the home itself.
Head of the Habitat Philippines Youth Council
My Habitat experience has been extremely special and life-changing for me, but I think what has been most fulfilling was the induction of the youth council. It formally marked the beginning of what will hopefully become a nationwide youth movement to get youth more involved, to allow their voices to be heard and to shape them into future leaders in the process.
The basic fundamentals of Habitat for Humanity are based on the same values and morals I was raised and brought up with. Step out of your comfort zone, and show the world that we are all capable of helping, whether in big or small ways. This is our chance to show girl power and our true strength — don that hard hat, and build!
President of Women Thrive Worldwide, a Habitat partner
Stable shelter is a basic building block for further empowerment. It is one of those very basic human needs that can sometimes get overlooked when we’re so focused on health as a basic human need, food as a basic human need. People may have shelter, but old wooden boards and a tin roof, that’s not adequate. For a lot of women who participate in microenterprise programs, one of the first things they do with the money they save up is to improve their home.
One organization is not a movement. With one group you might be able to get a temporary win, but it doesn’t stick unless there’s a real constituency and a broad movement behind it. Our approach is to build a big base of organizations — which has included Habitat for many, many years — as well as individual Americans who will speak out and stay engaged with these issues. We can’t do it alone.
First lady of Zambia and Habitat volunteer
The reason I am involved with Habitat’s work is simple, as we are witnessing here that Habitat Zambia builds homes with the poor and marginalized, especially women and children. When I see the joy that comes on their faces when they have shelter, it all makes sense. As a result of decent shelter, they are now able to send their children to school and look after their children. If you don’t have a good home, I think it is very hard for you to provide for your family and even to look after yourself. So if you have a home, you have security.
I want to say to all the women hope is there, we want every Zambian to have a home. Do not lose hope.
Actress and Habitat volunteer
The act of people getting together to actually build a home for another family is such a beautiful and amazing concept. Homes built not only from the generosity and donations of others, but with actual hammering, roofing, painting and hands-on work from people who care.
Being a part of a home build and then seeing the structure finished and the family moving in is an incredible experience. I had one little girl take me by the hand and show me every inch of her new house. She was so proud, so happy. She showed me every vent, door knob, every little thing, beaming with pride.
All it takes to understand how inclusive Habitat’s builds are is one day on a build site. There is a job for everyone. You can bring your skill set with you or learn new skills. Women and men, young and old, every hand is lending a hand.
I am a single mother of the most amazing 5-year-old daughter Madeline. I had been living from day to day so long that a future beyond that seemed like a dream out of reach. When my friend told me about being accepted to the Habitat for Humanity program, I wanted to do it but was very scared. The day I went to help on her house, I knew it was meant for me.
When I was accepted, I instantly found myself surrounded by the most wonderful support system I could have asked for. When I lay down next to my daughter at night, I finally felt we had a chance. When I was told my house sponsor would be Women Build, it was exactly what I had been waiting for. I come from a family of very strong women that have shown me a great deal of support, but I soon found out just how much greater my family would grow. It inspires me to know the women who have helped make my and Maddie’s dream come true with the simple goodness of their hearts.
With their help, I have been able to show Maddie that working hard and putting in the effort will get her what she wants. This lesson is something she can pass on, and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better group of people to help me teach her.
Global Village trip leader and Habitat Canada volunteer
Habitat Global Village trips have given me insight into different cultures and made me aware of other people’s history in a very personal way, much more than I could ever read in a book. Every day on the work site, I marvel at how well we execute our tasks; how we interact with each other with kindness, genuine interest and good-natured teasing; how we connect with the homeowners; and how we embrace every moment of our GV trip with grace, fun and a sense of adventure.
I have found that Habitat gives women — whether homeowners or team members — new strengths, confidence and peace. We may start out building a home, but we end up building people.
Habitat allows me to express my love in a very constructive way. It allows me to share myself, using my hands and my heart to build a home for my neighbor — whether they live next door or across an ocean.
Recording artist and Habitat volunteer
A personal favorite Habitat memory was working on my first house in New Orleans. I had learned to build wall frames and had been working all day long and — in addition to walls — had built up some nice blisters on my hands. One of the supervisors came over and gave me a “real” hammer. It was so much easier to use! I guess I had to prove myself on the girl hammer first. It felt good to earn the big hammer!
My father basically built the house that I grew up in. I was 6 when we moved in. The whole summer before that, my dad would let me and my sister “help” build the house. I got to nail in floorboards and put doorknobs on cabinets, etc. It gave me such a sense of pride, even at that young age, to feel that I had a small part in building the home I lived in up until I graduated high school. I think that’s my favorite part of Habitat, encouraging people to work on their own homes.
The best thing I can say to women is to jump in with both feet and don’t be afraid to swing a hammer! Even if you don’t think you can do the physical labor, you just may surprise yourself. Since working with Habitat, I have learned how to frame walls and windows, cut and hang siding, paint trim, and install weatherproofing. I can’t wait to find out what’s next.