International Efforts - Kenya
Since our founding in 1984, Paterson Habitat has tithed a percentage of its annual donations to help Habitat affiliates in developing nations. Our sister affiliate, HFH Kenya, has received over $500,000 in tithe donations which is equal to 450 homes built in Kenya.
In September 2011, a group of 7 volunteers from Paterson Habitat visited Kenya to work on Habitat for Humanity's 500,000th home worldwide. On World Habitat Day (October 3rd) the affiliate in Kenya dedicated the home while we simultaneously built the first walls of the 500,001st Habitat home. Here is a first hand account of the trip written by Team Kenya leader and Board President, Donna Brightman.
Report from Team Kenya
Seven volunteers from Paterson Habitat, myself included, spent the first week in September in the village of Maai Mahiu, Kenya, building Habitat for Humanity International's 500,000th house.
This was both a humbling and inspiring experience.
It was humbling to see the scope of the challenges faced by the people in Maai Mahiu and feel their gratitude for Habitat's help, and inspiring to experience their positive outlook despite conditions that would make most of us despair.
The village is a camp for families left homeless by an epidemic of violence directed at their three years ago. They were burned out of their homes and forced to flee with only what they could carry. For the last three years whole families have been living in leaky vinyl tents about three times the size of a North Jersey garden shed.
But you couldn't see that kind of hardship in the faces of the women who appeared out of nowhere every morning to sign and dance their thanks as we arrived at the work site. On that first morning, news of our arrival seemed to spread through the village instantly and we were surrounded by a welcoming throng of adults and children.
The Paterson Habitat volunteers included four other board members: Rev. Stafford Miller, found and senior pastor of St. Phillip's Ministry of the UMC in Paterson; Michael Rolls, a CPA and Paterson Habitat treasurer; T.J. Best, a Habitat homeowner who became the youngest member ever elected to the Paterson Board of Education; and Orville Morales, a social media consultant who produced a daily blog covering out mission to Kenya. Rounding out the team were Lynn Florence, a nurse from Oakland who was returning to Kenya after serving there with the Peace Corps 10 years ago; and Jolie Umstead, a student at William Paterson University.
Like all the houses Habitat for Humanity is building in Maai Mahiu, the house we worked on was a very simple cement structure divided into three rooms with an outdoor latrine and plot of land for growing produce. The aluminum roof was held up by wooden trusses, which we installed with the help of an expert coach, Steve Thomas, former host of the popular PBS TV show This Old House.
The design and cost of these houses is modest, but there is nothing modest about the impact they have on the lives of people in the developing world. Paterson Habitat has been able to partner with 450 families in Kenya alone to help them achieve the dignity and safety of decent, affordable homes. This is only possible because of the global tithing financed by our donors.
Donors often mention the satisfaction they get in seeing the positive impact of their support in the form of new homes and revived neighborhoods right here in Paterson. I wish every one of our donors could see the impact their support is also making in places like Maai Mahiu. I can't wait to return next year when PHFH sends another group.