DC Habitat for Humanity
Reflections On A Volunteer Experience
By Jerry Ellis, Jr.
DC Habitat for Humanity (DCHFH) is based in Washington, D.C., and the organization is just one of many local chapters HFH International has throughout the world. DCHFH sells homes to families who are ineligible for conventional financing. The organization provides eligible residents, 20- to 30-year mortgages at no interest, and no profit is made by the organization. Banks donate “seed money” to DCHFH, so that homes can be built at low cost. Prospective homeowners must contribute 300 hours of volunteer work before becoming eligible for home ownership. A portion of these volunteer hours (also know as “sweat equity”) must be from construction of their own home or other DCHFH homes and completed in a year. As of October 2004, DC Habitat has built 75 homes and renovated 75 low-income cooperative units in Washington, D.C. To achieve these goals, the organization relies on approximately 10,000-plus people who volunteer on the construction site throughout the year.
So, where does my journey begin with DCHFH? In September of 2004, a coworker introduced me to the organization. Initially, I became involved with the recycling committee. On that committee, we collected plastic bottles, scrap metal, and vinyl siding from the site and took the material to a recycling center, so that the construction area and neighborhood stay clean. Within a month of joining DCHFH, I decided to enter the family partnership program with a prospective homeowner. As a family partner, my primary responsibility was to support a single-mother of one young son, through the home-buying process, and help her complete those required 300 “sweat equity” hours. For a period of 9 months, I volunteered on the construction site on Saturday mornings. Sometimes I brought friends and colleagues from work with me to help build homes and I am grateful for their kind service to the organization. My experience has been life changing for me. I’ve been exposed to so many kind and giving people; and I have been truly inspired by the family partnership. I’ll never see life in the same way as I did prior to September 2004.
The History of Habitat For Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in a small farming community near Americus, Georgia in 1976. The Fullers became very successful business owners in Alabama, earning millions of dollars annually, by their late twenties. However, they had life changing events that lead them to sell all their possessions, give their money to the poor and move to a Christian community called Koinonia Farm, located in the vicinity of Americus, Georgia. In this community, the Fullers found practical ways to apply Christ’s teachings and with the help of Clarence Jordan and others, the Fullers eventually founded Habitat for Humanity (HFH) International. The organization is dedicated to providing affordable housing to low-income people at zero percent interest (based on a biblical principle).
For more information about HFH International, please visit: http://www.habitat.org