Habitat For Humanity International CEO Marks World Habitat Day In New Zealand

Jonathan Reckford Also Travels To Australia, Meeting Key Sponsors, Government Leaders And Staff

AUCKLAND/SYDNEY, 16th October 2008: Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford was in the Land of the Long White Cloud recently, celebrating the World Habitat Day on 6th October. His three-day trip marked the first time that HFH New Zealand had celebrated the United Nations event. World Habitat Day draws global attention to the state of the world’s towns and cities and the basic right to adequate shelter for all.

Fruitful: HFHI CEO Jonathan Reckford (top right) speaking at the World Habitat Day public housing forum in Auckland. He also attended the opening of the Central North Island affiliate’s ReStore with Habitat’s leaders in New Zealand, (bottom, from left) John Gallagher, Tony Lanigan and Pete North. (Photos by Sue Ings, HFH New Zealand; Barker Photography)

Behold: A Habitat family giving a performance at the barbecue fundraising dinner. (Photo by Sue Ings, HFH New Zealand)

People in the neighborhood: Reckford meeting Kasia Rettig, a Habitat home partner who had moved into Bidwill earlier.

While in Auckland on New Zealand’s North Island, Reckford attended a World Habitat Day public housing forum and a gourmet barbecue fundraising dinner as well as the opening of a ReStore. A ReStore is a way for an affiliate to raise funds selling donated and new construction materials and household items. Reckford also dined with members from New Zealand’s Central North Island affiliate. Accompanying Reckford was Jim Yarbrough, resource development director for Habitat for Humanity, Asia-Pacific.

At the housing forum, entitled “Affordable and Healthy Housing for All”, Reckford highlighted the need for broad partnerships to address the housing crisis worldwide. “The UN’s World Habitat Day is a chance to highlight the vast shelter needs in our world. It is also an opportunity to consider how we might come together – in partnership with poor families themselves – to meet those needs, to help bridge the gap between those who have and those who have not.”

Guest speakers at the forum included NGO and local academic thought-leaders: the Salvation Army’s Major Campbell Roberts, sustainable homes expert Nick Collins and public health experts Dr Chris Bullen and Dr Simon Denny. Presentations included reports on the negative impact of overcrowded, damp and cold houses on health and educational progress and the need for urgent action on providing affordable housing in New Zealand. With a general election coming up in November, the attendance of representatives from major political parties was significant.

Reckford and Yarbrough later attended a barbecue fundraiser dinner marking World Habitat Day. HFH New Zealand took the opportunity to acknowledge its various partners and supporters in its successes, as well as to reaffirm its commitment to serve the housing needs of struggling families in New Zealand and overseas.

Quoting from the late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, Reckford said during the dinner: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

“I can’t tell you how inspiring it is to me, as I travel, to see how that quote is manifest in the life-changing, world-changing, work of Habitat for Humanity – in the work of partners like all of you,” he added.

Guests at the dinner were in for a treat when a Habitat family sang and danced their way to everyone’s hearts. Another home partner Allan Va’a, who is running as a city councilor, spoke of the life-changing difference a Habitat home made. A home, Va’a said, provided the platform for his family to grow, thrive and continue to give back to their own community.

During his three-day trip, Reckford also dedicated a Building on Faith home by the Greater Auckland affiliate and gave several interviews including one on the national public broadcaster, Radio New Zealand.

After New Zealand, Habitat’s CEO travelled to neighboring Australia where he visited the Bidwill project site in western Sydney, New South Wales. The Bidwill Blitz Build is a partnership between HFH Australia and Australian real estate franchisor LJ Hooker that had supported Habitat’s post-tsunami reconstruction in Indonesia’s Aceh. Over 12 days in November, LJ Hooker will send staff volunteers to help build one house. Even Warren McCarthy, LJ Hooker’s CEO, is looking forward to getting his hands dirty as part of the volunteer force.

During his time in Australia, Reckford met with Tanya Plibersek, the federal government’s housing minister and separately with Sean O’Toole, managing director of Landcom, about partnership opportunities. Landcom is a corporation owned by the New South Wales state government.

Through breakfast, luncheon and dinner, Reckford interacted with HFH Australia staff, key sponsors such as mortgage insurer PMI and a finance ministry’s statutory body WorkCover NSW as well as non-governmental organizational partner World Vision Australia.

Reckford also spoke about Habitat’s work in interviews with Australian newspaper Sydney Morning Herald as well as the Australian Financial Review.

The two trips underline the importance of partnerships in Habitat’s work. As Reckford noted when he was in New Zealand, “working together we can deliver a deeper impact in more lives in more communities in more corners of the globe”