[Blog Post by Rob Nissly, Housing Director]
I love my job! What we do every day here at Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley is very rewarding. We are renovating and selling more homes than ever to Habitat partner families. We are serving more non-Habitat families through our Veterans, Critical Repair, Weatherization and Energy Efficiency programs. Our ReStore does a great job of keeping tons of materials from landfills while providing needed revenue to the affiliate. There is a lot to get excited about and the community’s awareness of our work continues to increase.
However, Edeline and her three siblings are on my mind. They now live in Léogâne, Haiti near the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. We met at Habitat for Humanity’s Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter 2012 Work Project – an annual event where volunteers from around the world come together to make a difference. In 2012, 500 volunteers provided financial support and physical labor to build a simple decent place to live for 100 families in the Santo community in Léogâne. The conditions were harsh for the volunteers – long days in the heat, working hard to reach the aggressive building goals, and using makeshift tools while living in a “tent city” that was formerly a school’s soccer field. Over the course of the week with my broken French I was able to learn more about Edeline’s family. They had lost their parents in the disaster and were living under a makeshift lean-to made of cardboard, metal, cloth and other materials they found along the road. Her father had had a good job, she had been able to go to our equivalent of high school, and things were generally positive until the earthquake. Since then, every day had been a struggle – where will the next meal come from, where will they stay if it rains, and when will the young siblings be able to go to school? All of this responsibility landed quickly and squarely on the shoulders of 17 year old Edeline.
She couldn’t imagine how much better life would be after we were able to complete their house and all of the strangers (now friends) returned home. The homes were very small, but well constructed with the hope withstanding future natural disasters. The foundations were concrete, the walls treated lumber, and the roofs were metal. Each home shared a well with four other families and they had a latrine and a “shower” in a separate structure behind each home. She had dreamed of this week after she had been selected to be one of the 100 families that would be receiving a Habitat home as part of our work that year. She was so grateful that people would invest their time and money to help her family. She felt that there was no way to repay this kindness. For me, the opportunity to build the structure that would shelter Edeline and her family was more than enough return.
A few months ago I learned that the families in the community were thriving. Incomes that had been around .50 USD per day have increased ten to twenty fold. People are able to be productive because they didn’t have to worry daily about their living situation. Edeline is now working at home creating crafts that she sells at the local market – earning money to be used to feed the family. A garden was started that supplied fresh food year-round. Her siblings are now going to school, an important opportunity in this impoverished nation. For these four children their lives were forever changed by my group of volunteers. Although not evident in the moment, we were the ones receiving the greatest gift.
Another thing I love about my job is that for every home we renovate and sell here in Washtenaw County, our Habitat affiliate with community support sends money to both Guatemala and Haiti to build an equivalent number of home abroad. We are more – we are Habitat!