I have heard, or read of Habitat for Humanity and their projects to build homes for the poor different times over the years, and I thought I knew what they do, but this book was an eye-opener. Millard Fuller, the founder himself, describes how he came to this work when he and his wife realized they were frustrated and bored with all his business successes. They were millionaires but Linda was even talking of leaving him. Such a planned life, where everything Millard tried turned to gold seemed to be a life to be endured. They decided to become poor again and start over.
Next they decided to travel together as a family and become bonded together once more. When they stopped to visit a friend at the Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia, (USA) they found new direction for their lives. They met Clarence Jordan (author of the Cotton Patch Gospel) and stayed a month. This man found their crazy idea logical, and encouraged them when Fuller sold his share of his business to his partner, and they started life over again. He took other jobs for two years, but then came back to the farm - where the idea for bulding homes for the poor, with a plan that would preserve their dignity, was born.
Rather than me telling you the whole store I urge you to read it for yourself. It is fascinating.
The rest of the book shows the growth of Habitat for Humanity from different perspectives. Fuller explains how it grew so fast in the beginning, and now is in many countries around the world through affiliates who set up similar works with the same rules, and are able to build thousands of homes for poor who donate sweat equity and then pay off the rest with small payments that do not make anyone else wealthy. The money just goes to help start more homes for others. Fuller tells how this is not charity, but the plan helps the poor, even street people who have no money to contribute can become home-owners.
In another chapter he tells how home ownership gives these families dignity and transforms their lives because they now feel they have come up to the ordinary class of people.
Fuller answers the many questions a skeptic might have to explain how Habitat's plan makes this huge difference in lives, and draws out many excellent volunteers (changing their lives too), how it sprang into life in other countries, and how he encourages every Habitat for Humanity affiliate to deliberately plan to share a percentage of their work with those way beyond their borders. He shows how much of their success can be attributed to the whole-hearted support of former US President, Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalyn. That has given them a great international profile.
Interestingly enough, this project appealed to people of all kinds of faiths and persuasions. Muslims and Christians, even athiests, could all work side by side, feeling satisfied for each their own reasons.
When corporate sponsors came on board Habitat received new impetus to move forward and aboard. Some of the big companies and schools set side time for their employees or students to build on a house they have sponsored financially. The corporate heads say that working together like that does so much for their own team spirit within the company that they feel they have benefited tremendously from the work projects.
I'm really grateful for the thoroughness with which Millar Fuller tells this story. He covered aspects I would not have thought to ask about, and his countless illustrative stories throughout the book make it truly a fascinating reading. I know that I want to do what I can to help them in the future. I'm not sure that I'd be much help swinging a hammer, but I'm sure there are many other ways to help out.
Reviewer - Ruth Marlene Friesen.