Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna is best known for helping low-income families in Harford and Cecil Counties to achieve homeownership. We do this by partnering with the families and the community to build, renovate and repair homes. Those homes are then sold at a low, no-interest mortgage to our partner families, and the payments return to a rotating fund to help us build more homes.
But did you know that Habitat for Humanity Susquehanna is also helping families overseas? We, like most affiliates, donate a tenth of our income to support building efforts around the world. Since our founding in 1992, we have funded 53 homes in El Salvador and Kenya.
Recently, I had the privilege to follow our tithe in a Global Village trip to Morazan, El Salvador. Global Village is Habitat International's mission's program. Volunteer teams all over the United States travel to Habitat affiliates overseas to raise money, build sustainable and affordable homes, and advocate for better housing solutions. In El Salvador, whole communities have been destroyed by civil war and natural disasters, and nearly half of the nation’s people live in poverty housing. Habitat El Salvador is working to combat the problem, and they rely on volunteer teams to build safer, studier homes.
I spent eight days with a delegation from Maryland working on the future home of a couple named Marta and Manuel. These two wonderful people live in a shack made of corrugated metal sheets and wood beams, all held together by twine. Marta brings in their weekly income by making and selling tortillas in the market. This is how they - and most of the country's inhabitants - live on a daily basis.
Soon, they will move into a home built to withstand earthquakes and flooding - both common occurrences - with a sturdy foundation, reinforced walls, an indoor bathroom and a roof that doesn't leak. It's a simple home, but it's a home that will improve their health and quality of life, and a home they can pass on to future generations.
The experience was eye-opening (if I may borrow the coloquialism), and not just to the poverty that is so pervasive in the third world, but to the poverty that exists right in my backyard. In Harford County alone, 2,606 families are living in substandard conditions. Such statistics shouldn't exist, but they do.
Upon my return to the United States, I am more motivated than ever to offer a hand up to those in need not just throughout the world, but in this neighborhood. I can't do it alone. Habitat can't do it alone. This is a joint effort, a coming-together of a community in response to a problem that cannot be resolved on its own.
If you want to hear more about Habitat Susquehanna's local and international impact, or if you're interested in our volunteer program, you can contact me at anytime. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.