Habitat for Humanity is an international Christian service organization that sends volunteers of all faiths all over the world to help low income individuals build homes. The organization works in tandem with local groups to organize volunteers and identify people in need of homes, and had built more than 225,000 homes for over one million people by 2006. The services it provides are vital for people in nations all over the world, ranging from America to Zaire, and volunteers often cite work with the group as a life changing experience.
The organization was founded in 1976 by Linda and Millard Fuller, who abandoned well-paying jobs to dedicate themselves to Christian service. They saw a need for low income housing that empowered the people who lived in it, and started out in the American South before traveling to Africa to build homes. Support for the organization continues to grow, bolstered by former United States President Jimmy Carter and his wife, who lead the Jimmy Carter Work Project each year. During the project, volunteers, including the president and his wife, build 100 homes in one week in locations which vary widely, from India to Brooklyn.
One common misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that the organization gives homes away. The group does not believe that giving out free homes empowers people, and the new owners do pay for their homes, although the price is greatly reduced. In addition, homeowners help to build their homes, in tandem with volunteers. The combined investment of money and labor in the home gives the owner a sense of pride and accomplishment, it is suggested, that would not be achieved if the home had been simply given away. The monthly mortgage payments are used to fund projects in other parts of the world, so, in a way, homeowners contribute to the organization simply by living in and using their new homes.
Although Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization, it welcomes people of all faiths to volunteer to build homes and does not discriminate against home applications on the basis of religious affiliation. Homeowners and volunteers work in an environment that encourages mutual respect and courtesy, and the experience is often said to be educational and enlightening for all parties. The organization also values traditional cultural values, and builds modest, comfortable homes that are in line with the cultural norms of the homeowner. It is also committed to environmentally sustainable building and living practices, and works to encourage sustainability in the communities it is active in.
Donations are the primary source of land, materials, and labor. These donations are often coordinated by local organizations, which help to organize volunteers and material donations. When a community organization affiliated with the larger group identifies people in need, it contacts the parent organization, which further assists with organizing, grants, and experienced volunteers. People who are interested in volunteering can contact a local chapter.