For many people, the cost of housing continually exceeds their income. In 1973, one man decided to do something about this situation. Millard Fuller, a self-made millionaire, went to Africa where he helped poor people build homes. Fuller used this analogy: “a house is to a family, what soil is to a plant.” He meant that without soil a plant could not survive even if it had the same amount of sunlight and water as before. Upon his return from Africa, Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that has grown to become one of the largest homebuilders in the nation. It has built homes in every state and 47 countries. Its goal is to help people on limited incomes own their own homes. Volunteers who contribute their time and money to the organization are its backbone. Many people, from presidents to football stars to members of the community, have worked on Habitat homes. The prospective homeowner is expected to contribute as well. Mattie and Silas Allen and Valerie Ferguson, Habitat homeowners, discuss what their houses have meant to them. Fuller notes how the community is helped as the homeowners pay property taxes and have better attitudes about the neighborhood. Children living in a family-owned home even do better in school. For Fuller, the special moment is the home dedication service when the house is complete and presented to the new homeowner. He knows that Habitat cannot eliminate poverty housing everywhere, but his aim is to make it socially unacceptable to have substandard housing and homelessness in the world.
Teacher tip: Ask students to reflect on the work of Habitat for Humanity and record their thoughts about its work. If they have volunteered on a Habitat project, they should include that experience in their reflection.