Posts Tagged ‘Habitat for Humanity’

Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter’s Anniversary – 73 Years in Service

Carter Visits Peleliu

President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter have been married 73 years today. That’s a big long run, and a testament to willingness to discover fresh opportunities together.

Since his presidency, Carter has flourished for many years as a statesman and powerhouse in the charitable world. If you were so inclined, you could get involved in some volunteer opportunities driven by Carter.

Most of us have heard of Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit home building organization founded in 1976 and now working in all 50 states as well as more than 70 other countries, helping more than 22 million people so far. Jimmy and Rosalynn got involved early and rocketed awareness of Habitat with their ongoing work swinging hammers and building homes. Together with legions of volunteers (not requiring special skills, so any of us can get involved), they help families achieve strength, stability, and independence through safe, decent, and affordable shelter. Pop in your zip code to find your local Habitat here. You’ll find travel and build opportunities if you want to get busy on a volunteer vacation, women build options, programs specific to veterans, youth programs, college challenges, and emergency programs in disaster areas. At the end of a day volunteering, raising a wall on a new home or handing over the keys where a family can now make memories is the kind of payback we all crave.

Another of Carter’s major organizations is The Elders.

This auspicious group has been working since 2007  a group of global leaders, brought together originally by Nelson Mandela, to offer their influence and wisdom to the process of peace building and to address human suffering. In addition to Jimmy Carter, Ban Ki-moon, Graca Machel, Desmond Tutu, and Mary Robinson are a few others of the elders. The group was gathered and launched by Sir Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel.

There are so few cultures that still revere the wisdom that comes with age, the life spirit and lessons passed down through generations–it’s almost as if we move too quickly and are so desperate to reinvent and improve that we end up re-inventing the wheel instead of building upon the knowledge of those who have gone before us. What a loss.

The Elders focus on international rights issues and take on new challenges as they arise. Their collective plate is currently full with initiatives focused on: ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation; climate change, universal health, access to justice, conflict countries and regions, and refugees and migration.

Big, heady issues. Big heads taking them on. When was the last time you reached out to the generation before yours for guidance? Your parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, family friends, business mentors, or anyone older needn’t be a world leader to have incredible gifts of wisdom that are yours for the asking.

What Would Jimmy Do?

Volunteer on the Slopes with Disabled Skiers

Photo: Sean Waterman/Dodge Ridge

My high school friend, Marci, used to work tirelessly with Habitat for Humanity in and around my home town, and she then moved on to a position with the Society for Handicapped Children and Adults. One of the programs I know she loves being part of, and through which I get to live vicariously via facebook and online updates, is the annual Winter Skiing Unlimited program that runs each winter Saturday, from now through March, at the Dodge Ridge ski slopes in California. For the past 25 years, skiing volunteers, and non-skiers (you needn’t be an expert or even ski to help) have facilitated the ski program for paraplegic, quadriplegic, deaf, blind, and developmentally disabled clients (more than 150 have signed up this winter). Non skiers help with access, lifting skiers in and out of wheelchairs, transport vans, ski lifts, adaptive devices, helping be sure everyone is having a great time, maybe even making a hot cocoa run to the lodge. Intermediate ski volunteers hold and steady sit-skis so clients can shush down the hill, more advanced skiers who can ski backward lead blind skiers down the runs, and snowboarding volunteers run interference to be sure other recreational skiers enjoying the slopes don’t crash through a group.

The organization also has water ski and golf programs in other seasons, giving the differently-abled community access to lots of joy and inclusion and ways to make fun work for everyone. Look them up, support them, if you are in the area, give a Saturday. Can you imagine how incredible that weekend would be if this is the way you spend a day of it? Find out details here.

October 9-Proud Hearts Service Day

5,000+ ESF volunteers engaged in service events across 36 states in conjunction with Coming Out Day.

Tomorrow, October 9, is a big day for the Empowering Spirits Foundation…it is the Proud Hearts Service Day.

ESF is a national LGBT civil rights organization dedicated to service.

Quote start“ESF is proud to be working with various organizations to address many of the major issues facing Americans today; affordable housing, inadequate healthcare, and a lack of funds for neighborhood revitalization.”Quote end

Every year the event adds service projects throughout the US, and this year will collaborate with the Department of Defense Federal Globe (DOD FED Globe), Habitat for Humanity, TexTango,, and Equality Alabama; to once again participate in a day of service-oriented events designed to allow LGBT individuals to work side-by-side with their non-LGBT counterparts. Building bridges between people while bettering communities makes this such an important day. Some of the 2010 events are assisting the San Diego Park and Recreation Department restore Gonzalez Canyon in Del Mar, CA; assisting Habitat for Humanity in construction of a new home in Birmingham, AL; assisting Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee serve the hungry in Nashville; assisting the DuMond Conservancy for Primates and Tropical Forests in Miami, FL; and assisting the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Partnerships for Parks to help restore a park in Manhattan.

“Any time we build coalitions through mutual efforts with the greater society, huge strides are made in educating the public,” said Lisa Kove, Executive Director of DOD FED Globe. “Once those that might not have previous exposure to, or understanding of the LGBT community, find themselves in a situation where they’re working alongside us, barriers and misconception are broken down.”

Instead of attempting to change laws, ESF strives to change the hearts and minds of those who are generally ignored by existing LGBT organizations.

Fiji or Nepal?

Habitat Tsunami Relief Site

A friend of mine with whom I last traveled ages ago, to South Africa (where the two of us saw our first…and hopefully last…murdered body), posted today on facebook: “Fiji or Nepal?”

She is planning on doing the Habitat for Humanity International Volunteer Program and was trying to decide which destination to choose for her work commitment. I love this long-term volunteer program, and also love Habitat’s Global Village Program where volunteer workers go to foreign countries to build homes or do disaster relief work for two-week stints. There is a Habitat program for you no matter your appetite for intrepid adventure or sticking close to home (US programs flourish and provide amazing volunteer opportunities) and however much time you have to give.

My reply to my friend’s facebook query? “Both. Now the question is simply Which One First?”

Independence Day

The Fourth of July. Freedom, Liberty, Independence. As we celebrate all these things with the required explosives and overeating and hopefully a lot of laughter and love in your life…maybe a category for potential volunteering might suggest itself from the day’s theme. Or as the opposite of the day’s theme. As we laud all things free, have you considered that what may strike up your volunteering spirit (like striking up the band to hit it with the “Star Spangled Banner” one more time) would be working with prisoners and those who are incarcerated?

Jails and prisons make use of volunteers in so many ways, and your work can truly change the life of someone who doesn’t have the freedoms you enjoy today. Habitat for Humanity does Prison Partnership volunteering to get some of their most important house building projects done. So many prisons use volunteers from the community for workshops, lectures, re-entry training and job interview skills for rehabilitated prisoners, and more. San Quentin, for instance, has a spearheading program that is also in place among other prisons throughout California, called the California Re-Entry Program. California is not alone–volunteers do important work in the prison systems in pretty much every state and community, so surely there is an opportunity near you. PVS (Prisoner Visitiation System) tries to set up volunteer visitors to federal and military prisoners throughout the nation’s systems so those who don’t get contact might be able to reach out and be heard. This is a program bringing visitors in to Death Row, solitary confinement, and long-term/life sentence prisoners or others whose family/life circumstances might mean they don’t have regular visitors. The Prison Book Program stocks and staffs with volunteers, the libraries at prisons around the country. Prison Pet Partnerships does fantastic work with visiting dogs programs as well as pairing prisoners with dogs to train as guide and service dogs (there are plenty of other fantastic dog programs with youth in jails as well).

Here, randomly, are some more programs (and the links tot heir volunteer information pages)–I promise you can find one in your area if you’d like to be a prison volunteer: New Mexico Corrections Department, Pennsylvania Prison Society, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Tennessee Department of CorrectionChicago Books to Women in Prison, Arizona Department of Corrections.

Whether helping someone study for their GED or other schooling, ministering via your spiritual tradition, job training, life skills teaching, drama or writing or other arts programs, working with youth, volunteer visiting, animal visits and training, or that giant mountain of volunteer administrative support (especially as states cut back on budgets and employees), you can be of tremendous service to the prison system–a nice way to ponder freedom today, and tomorrow…

Chilean Aid

This weekend’s 8.8 earthquake in Chile was 500 times more powerful than the one in Haiti, but thanks to the epicenter being further below ground, as well as the randomness of tectonic plates and building codes in Chile, it has resulted in fewer deaths (and we’re still talking about 700+ casualties with that number expected to rise).Villages and towns have been devastated, and resulting tsunami waves also took out some small coastal villages.

Where to donate our dollars can be daunting–we heard about so much fraud surrounding Haitian relief efforts. Google, in all it’s worldwide ubiquity (except, perhaps, in China with it’s censorship practices) very quickly established a Google Crisis Response page, and a newer feature that I fervently hope works as well as is intended: their Person Finder helps family and friends around the world get information about their loved ones in the disaster zone by wiki methods of user-generated information.

Additionally on the page are direct links to vetted aid organizations. A list of links (there are other direct donation methods made available on the Google Crisis page):  AmeriCares, Oxfam, Save the Children, World Vision (English), World Vision (Spanish), Un techo para Chile, the Chilean Red Cross, KSAR Chile, SOS Children’s Villages, Global Giving, ShelterBox, Habitat for Humanity, Operation USA.

Donor fatigue can set in with all the help needed around the world, but if you can help, please do

Ricky Martin & Habitat in Haiti

One of the elements of the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake is the still uncounted numbers of orphaned children. We understand all too clearly the hardship these kids do now and will face as the nation begins trying to move ahead. One of the side-effects we may not have thought of is just how vulnerable these kids are…to the forces of crime and injury and disease…but also to those who would prey on their innocence. Child sexual slavery is an international scourge and epidemic of proportions we rarely see or can even conceive. Ricky Martin has worked tirelessly with his Ricky Martin Foundation as an advocate for children and breaking the cycle of child enslavement that can and does see children of three and four years being sold into sexual slavery, and raped by dozens and dozens of men. It is unfathomable and yet happens every day. And it is not only overseas, but here in our own nation as well. It should make you sick to your stomach…if not, you didn’t read that correctly.

Martin recently went to Haiti alongside the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Jonathan Reckford, to survey the devastation. Martin, who also traveled to the Boxing Day Tsunami region as soon as possible, said of the scene in Haiti, “Every family is a family in need.  I’m asking each of you to think about the future of the children.  What they will need to survive after they are properly fed and have received appropriate medical care is a safe and decent home.”

Habitat for Humanity has been at work in Haiti for 26 years and has provided more than 2,000 families with housing solutions through a variety of initiatives including new home construction, progressive building, home repairs and improvements. Habitat and The Ricky Martin Foundation (RMF) have joined to form the RMF/HFH Haiti Recovery Fund.  Both organizations are encouraging supporters to visit to donate now for immediate and long-term efforts in Haiti.

Through his ongoing philanthropic endeavors in conjunction with the Ricky Martin Foundation, Martin continues to be one of Habitat for Humanity’s most visible supporters.  Martin’s relationship with the organization began in early 2005, when the Ricky Martin Foundation partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build 224 homes in Thailand in response to the Asian tsunami in Dec. 2004.  Martin personally assisted in the building of the homes and has said that handing over the keys to the homeowners was one of the most impactful moments of his life.