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Habitat For Humanity: Volunteer Service In Action

By Jessie Jasper

Habitat for Humanity is a non profit volunteer organization founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976. Its aim is to provide decent, affordable low cost housing for low income families in need. Since its beginning 34 years ago, Habitat has constructed over 350,000 homes for 1.75 million people over the world. It also pledges to use local and appropriate construction supplies in keeping with the culture, the economic and community needs.

1700 affiliates or partners make up Habitat in the US alone and there are another 550 affiliates in countries as far flung as Mongolia, South Africa, Egypt and even the Republic of Ireland. Affiliates are the locally run organizations that help realize the building projects from start to finish from fund raising efforts, gathering the volunteers, selecting the families for help, setting the mortgages and even bringing specialized volunteers such as plumbers. There is also an international outreach group called the Global Volunteer Program that pairs American volunteers with communities in other countries to go work and live with the local people.

There are several misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity, one of which is that former US President Jimmy Carter started the organization. He remains its highest profile volunteer but since he starting volunteering for Habitat, there have been other famous people who have donated their time on building projects.

Another misconception is that the recipient families get the Habitat homes for free. All recipient families undergo credit checks and interviewed by the affiliates for their suitability as homeowners. The families must agree to giving 500 hours of their time to helping on their own homes and other projects by Habitat. They must also show that can pay back the no interest mortgage and keep up their homes. This screening takes a lot of families who are homeless or on welfare out of consideration for a Habitat home.

Another myth is that Habitat selects only African Americans to receive a house. Its statistics show while minorities make up 67% of its clientele, 33% are Anglo.

There has also been a question of accountability. Although Habitat has submitted financial statements of expenditures and revenues, its affiliates are not required to submit documentation of financial management to Habitat since they are independently run non profit organizations. For the most recent available year 2008, Habitat spent 83% of its revenue on operational expenses, 4% on management, and the rest on fund raising. This breakdown is perfectly within bounds for any not for profit organization.

Habitat for Humanity has received its share of unwanted media attention due to scandals within the organization. Millard Fuller was forced to resign in 2005 because of allegations of sexual harassment put forth by a female staffer. Habitat found no proof of misconduct; however, Fuller was still required to step down.

Habitat has also been the target of lawsuits and complaints by affiliates and recipient families regarding badly built homes. A New York Times article from June 17, 2007 aired the complaints of residents from the Habitat project of Fairway Oaks, Florida regarding shoddy foundations with cracks, rotting door frames, vermin, mildew and serious health problems . The homes were constructed near two landfill sites which Habitat insists passed EPA inspection.

Nevertheless, the efforts by Habitat in empowering people and communities by helping them build housing has gone a long way in improving those communities. Habitat homes put added value to the communities and it has given a way out of hopelessness for people in need.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Jasper, Jessie "Habitat For Humanity: Volunteer Service In Action." Habitat For Humanity: Volunteer Service In Action. 24 Jun. 2010. 26 Dec 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Jasper, J (2010, June 24). Habitat For Humanity: Volunteer Service In Action. Retrieved December 26, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Jasper, Jessie "Habitat For Humanity: Volunteer Service In Action"

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