Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity’s vision is “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” A nonprofit, Christian housing ministry, the organization builds and repairs houses all over the world using volunteer labor and donations. Partner families purchase these houses through no-profit, no-interest mortgage loans or innovative financing methods.
In the mid-1980’s I worked for a year in Americus, GA, Habitat’s operational headquarters. As a full-time volunteer staff member, I
- built houses
- designed ten simple homes for construction on Habitat Street
- catalogued photos, negatives, and slides in the media library
- In Dumay Haiti, over a two year period, I co-directed a 50-unit housing project with my husband. This involved:
- work with the local committee to improve the family selection process
- facilitation of community relations, including family planning seminars
- oversight of week-long workcamps from Canada and the US
- responsibility for project bookkeeping, family documentation and communication with the main office in Americus
While in Dumay we worked with a Romanian engineer to introduce alternative construction technologies. The vernacular Haitian house is built of plastered woven wood walls (“wattle and daub”), a thatched roof and a beaten earth floor. The typical improved home has concrete block walls, a corrugated metal roof on wood rafters, and a concrete floor. For some of the homes in the Dumay project, we built the walls with steel-reinforced concrete block corners and poured rim beams. Low-cement concrete and rubble wall panels were poured with formwork and then plastered. A second innovation was a vaulted roof, poured over a grid of reinforcing bar and formwork. These technologies reduced the cost of a house and removed the need for wood rafters in a country with devastating deforestation.
Following the magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January 2010, our contact in Dumay reported that homes there, about 20 miles from the epicenter, sustained cracking, but no collapses.