Reflections from our CEO
Loving Habitat for Humanity comes easy for me – but engaging as a volunteer has proven to be a challenge. Because of family commitments on weekends and the inability to “volunteer” during working hours, I felt like a “poser” for Habitat having not experienced the “construction volunteer” role. I decided I wanted to volunteer where I wouldn’t be treated as the CEO and decided to look at opportunities to go out of the country for Habitat. I signed up for a Global Village Trip (coordinated by Habitat for Humanity International) to Costa Rica to build a Habitat home for a single mother. I was accepted to the team and began raising money to provide for building materials for the home I was to help build.
In November, I boarded a flight to San Jose, CR. After meeting the 12 person build team that came from all areas of the U.S., we took a 6 hour bus ride to Buenos Aires. This was a rural area where the primary economic driver is pineapple plantations. We learned that Costa Rica has suffered from an epidemic of men who leave their significant others and their children with no source of income. We were told that the country even put laws in place that required mandatory prison time for cases like this.
We met Wendy, the future homeowner, and her daughter and mother. They all lived together in a rental home in Buenos Aires. Wendy’s mother was a widow and was later abandoned by her subsequent mate. She raised Wendy and her sister on her own and Wendy wanted something better. She attended school and worked as a pharmacy technician with hopes of furthering her education at some point. She took her meager earnings to pay for housing and sacrificed to put her daughter in private school where she could have a better education. Her daughter was amazing! She was fluent in English even though her family did not speak it. She was reading books written in English and was elated to be able to use her skills to talk with us during our visit. She told us that her mother sacrificed to provide her with a good education so she could become a professional and that later she would do the same for her mother. The women in the family clearly stuck together to make the family unit thrive.
Every day on the build site, Wendy’s mother would visit with gifts of fruit and be so thankful to Habitat for all that was being done. Our team was there during phase I of the construction, meaning we were to build the walls and dig the septic and leech field. The work was strenuous, but once we met the family, we all knew it was worth what we could give and more.
The trip caused me to ask questions like…Why aren’t we doing more?…How do we define decent shelter across the world?…How can we set some minimum standards globally?…But most of all, it made me realize how blessed I am. I know that when Habitat Hillsborough provides our “tithe” contribution to Habitat for Humanity International it is going to provide shelter at the most basic level in countries that do not have resources for funding. What we in the U.S. might call a temporary solution, is a permanent solution for many. I still connect with Wendy and her family on Facebook and see them thriving in their new home. To be part of the hope giving mission that is Habitat for Humanity is an honor and the trip made me understand at a deeper level why the vision of Habitat is A World Where Everyone Has a Decent Place to Live.