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Global Village

My Three Steps to Changing Lives with Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Financial

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Post written by Scott Budlong, Financial Associate with Thrivent Financial

I recently got back from the Dominican Republic. I’m blessed and grateful to be a financial representative for Thrivent Financial which is the largest non-governmental donor to Habitat for Humanity in the world. So, when I went down to the Dominican Republic to partake in a Thrivent Worldwide Build, I didn’t quite know if it was going to be work, a vacation, or a little bit of both. To be honest I still don’t know what it was, but I do know it blew my mind and was deeply meaningful.

The first step for me was to decide to take a risk. I could have gone to Jamaica and used my money to buy piña colada’s and enjoy the beach. It’s difficult for me to get away from the office, but Thrivent Financial encouraged me to take a week with a church leader. A full week with 12 people I’ve never met?! Sure! I’ll risk it.

Secondly, I choose to get to know the local community. Spanish is the predominate language in the Dominican Republic. Having lived in Central America for four months (14 years ago), I had the vocabulary of a preschooler. With patience, genuine smiles, and the Google Translate App, the language gap was bridged. It took me two days to build enough trust for Jeffery, a child in the village, to share his name with me. After that, I learned that Jeffery is 13 years-old, loves to throw Frisbee, and will take advantage of any opportunity he can to watch the Teenaged Mutate Ninja Turtles. We helped Jeffery’s aunt with installing a cement floor to replace her old dirt floor. Dirt floors are responsible for 85% of the sicknesses in Jeffery’s village of El Capa. She literally danced on the cement floor when we were done. Smiles all around.

Finally, I was open to the community getting to know me. I was not the only person in the Dominican Republic who knew how to use a shovel or wield a paint brush. In fact, I suspect I not even in the top quartile of brush and shovel wielders. But, I was present. There every day for a week. Smiling and full of concern. At the end of the week, the village of El Capa along with the Thrivent Worldwide Builds Team came together for a celebration. Long after I leave El Capa, the families won’t just be grateful for a new roof, a low-interest loan, and a cement floor. They will remember that someone cared enough to make their life a little better. They won’t likely remember my name, but they will remember that a group cared. It’s hard to overestimate the special addition of care and concern that Thrivent and Habitat build into each project.

I was blown away by the relationships I built in my trip, the meaningfulness of the experience, and the depth of impact on lives. I will be going back again in 2018 to lead a trip. (Also, I will want to see how my friend Jeffery is doing in school.)

Interested in traveling with Habitat to build homes in Central America? Learn more about our Global Village trip to El Salvador this November! Register by Sept. 1

Good Neighbors in this Global Village: Joel

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“Mas? No Mas?” I ask Oscar as I point to a pile of rebar on the ground next to the footer my new friend Mauricio just finished digging.  I’m realizing now that I should have put more time into learning basic phrases of Spanish before leaving for our trip. It’s day three of work on the Habitat for Humanity house in El Salvador. Our hosts Adriana and Luis were with us every step of the way, translating our English to Spanish to communicate with the masons and the homeowners, but I just wanted to communicate with Oscar on my own, person to person, without help.

When we arrived at the work site on Monday, it was just a plain dirt lot. By Wednesday, the footers had been dug, the dirt moved away, rebar supports and structures bent and assembled, and the first batches of concrete mixed and poured in the footers.  All this was done with shovels, wheelbarrows, wire snips, and Oscar’s ingenuity as the mason overseeing the build.  There were just over 10 of us working on the home including the mason overseeing the build, Oscar, two of his helpers, 6 volunteers from Indianapolis, and our hosts Adriana and Luis.

The neighbor Veronica is also a Habitat homeowner! She has been in her home for 15 years and will pay it off this month! Through her hard work she has been able to support her family with the help of Habitat and now she is able to support her brother, Osmil as he begins his journey to homeownership not just as a sister, but as a neighbor.

Veronica and Osmil’s families hosted us in their neighborhood and homes so wonderfully, making sure we had cold drinks and snacks in the hot and humid Central American weather.  Their warmth and welcome paired with the comradery of our volunteer team made the worksite a delight amongst the concrete and rebar.

By Friday, at the end of our time at Osmil’s home, we had gone from a flat dirt lot to the beginning of the foundation and a rebar structure that was almost ready to start laying the brick walls.  This was our good hard work with much more work to do.

Through this trip, I have been reminded that many times, the things in life worth doing can’t be completed in a week, or a month, or even in a few years.  This past week we started a home that will take weeks more to finish.  Osmil and his family are in the middle of their journey to homeownership that will take years to complete. Habitat for Humanity of El Salvador will walk with 400 families nationwide starting their journey to homeownership this year.  Here in the Greater Indy area, Habitat will link arms with 28 new homeowners this year that will join the over 500 new homeowners they have journeyed with since they first broke ground 30 years ago.

So, whether it is me learning more Spanish for the next time I’m in El Salvador with Habitat, partnering with Greater Indy Habitat in a deeper way, or being a better neighbor; may we continue to contribute to the good and hard work happening around us.  May we be good neighbors in this Global Village.

 

Upcoming Global Village Trip to El Salvador: Chris

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Before leaving for his second trip to El Salvador with Habitat for Humanity, Chris shares what the experience of serving with others means to him.

It’s been a year and half since I was in El Salvador for the first time with Global Village, and now that I’m ready to embark on my second trip this month, I can honestly say I’m just as excited if not more this time!

I’ve been blessed to be a part of another Global Village mission trip with our incredible international Habitat partners in El Salvador.  The fact that we get the opportunity to work alongside (sometime in the ditches), a family to raise the walls of their home is an amazing feeling, and regardless of the language barrier, there’s always something special about the bond we have with these families.

I would also add that our interactions with the local Habitat team, including the construction team, has been inspiring.  They welcome us with open arms, as if we were family and treat us like royalty!   They take care of our every need, and always keep our safety a top priority.  And when we’re not on the build site, we’re taking in the local culture and enjoying the hospitality of the wonderful people of El Salvador.

Overall, the trip is nothing short of a life-changing experience that I would encourage everyone to consider in their lifetime!

Global Village Trip in the Dominican Republic

By | From the CEO, Global Village | No Comments

What makes a house a home? I recently returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic, where I participated with several other CEOs from various Habitat for Humanity affiliates from around the country to learn about the impact Habitat is having in the Dominican Republic.

We had the opportunity to work alongside one of the families Habitat Dominican Republic is helping to build a home. A mom and her baby lived in what we would describe in the U.S. as a shack. It was next to her parent’s home that didn’t have enough room in it for her and her baby. Corrugated metal was manipulated, along with metal and wood scraps to form the exterior. It had no indoor plumbing or electricity. Most of us have better accommodations for our lawnmowers.

At no more than 150 square feet of space, this was her house. It kept her mostly safe from rain and the elements. She stored what clothes and possessions she had in it. She sleeps in it and is raising her child in it. Soon Habitat Dominican Republic will work alongside her to finish her block home that will have indoor plumbing and electricity, which will greatly improve her safety and health conditions for her baby and give her more space.

I had walked inside to see the interior of the house that she called home. As I exited the darkness of the house and entered the bright, afternoon sunlight through the one doorway, I discovered what made the house a home. My head grazed a small, but shiny wind chime, hanging from the top of the doorway. As I turned back to look at the full structure, I was struck by the fact that no matter the condition of her house, this mom was going to do what she could to make it her home. To me, this wind chime symbolized her effort to make it her home.

Maybe watching the chimes dance under a brisk wind took her mind off of reality. Maybe she liked how the solid shine of wind chimes glittered against the rugged tapestry of metal and wood, or even less esoteric, maybe it simply was her way of turning a house into a home.

Habitat for Humanity currently works in nearly 70 countries worldwide and has helped more than 6.8 million people with improved living conditions since 1976. Strength, stability and independence are key components to the work we do. What is at the heart of what we do is creating a better a home situation. By doing this, we are truly fulfilling the vision to provide everyone a decent place to live and call home.