My Experience with Habitat for Humanity
Jerry Ellis at work, on location in DC.

My Experience with Habitat for Humanity

Jerry Ellis takes time out to help someone in need and finds out that it is he who needed to volunteer for he will never see life in the same way after doing so.

By Jerry Ellis
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First published: July 19, 2005


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-an organization 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

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 homeownership. 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 collect plastic bottles, scrap metal, and vinyl siding from the site and take 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 1 child, 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.


Volunteers, DC Habitat for Humanity.


UGPulse Admin, Peter Kigonya, DC Habitat for Humanity.

For more information about DC HFH, please visit: http://www.dchabitat.org

Habitat for Humanity Uganda
HFH International also builds homes in the African countries of Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

HFH Uganda was founded in 1982 in a district of Northern Uganda called Gulu. Due to rebel insurgency and an unstable political situation, the affiliate was closed after building 26 houses. In 1987, an affiliate was developed in Western Uganda, Kasese, where more than 400 houses have been built. HFH Uganda operates in rural areas and is currently spread throughout 18 districts with 43 building communities (local affiliates) across eastern, western and central Uganda. Some of the houses are four-roomed structures, built out of burnt brick, sand, gravel and cement. Roofs are made of galvanized corrugated iron sheets. The mortgage loans are interest-free and repayable over a period of 7 to 10 years.

For more information about HFH Uganda,
please visit: http://www.habitat.org/intl/ame/211.aspx

By Jerry Ellis
more from author >>
First published: July 19, 2005
Jerry Ellis resides in Hyattsville, MD and works as an Environmental Scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. He holds a B.S. degree in Biology (Clark Atlanta University) and a M.S. degree in Environmental Science (Tufts University). Mr. Ellis is a lover of music, cultural events, fishing, poetry, art history, and plans to visit Kampala, Uganda and Accra, Ghana during 2006.
-All photos in this article are courtesy of Jerry Ellis.