Portrait of Jonathan Reckford

Looking back, looking ahead

As I look back on the 10 years that I’ve been privileged to lead Habitat for Humanity, I celebrate the individuals — more and more every year — who partner with us to build or improve a place to call home.

I think about a young woman named Dorcas whom I built alongside in Zambia. Her father died and her mother, Idah, was robbed and fell gravely ill when she traveled to Mozambique for business. Idah was unable to communicate or return home, so at 17, Dorcas became the head of her household. The crude shelter in which she lived with her three siblings wouldn’t even qualify as a tent, and it provided little protection from the dangers they faced alone. They had no money and were forced to quit school.

This family’s story changed, however, when they partnered with Habitat. All the children went back to school, and Dorcas was delighted to have a home with doors where she could feel safe. She kept repeating with a bright smile, “We are very happy.”

I recently learned that Dorcas and her sister have married and moved out, and Idah made her way back home. She lives with her mother and two of the children in the house, which has been expanded. Renting the additional rooms provide her family with extra income.

In Lonavala, India, I also was inspired by the food manager at the hotel where I stayed shortly after I began working at Habitat. Arun knew nothing about Habitat for Humanity, but after hearing some of us discussing our work, he decided to come out and build with us for several days. He said that you could not hire contractors to work so hard, with such attention to detail, and that you couldn’t buy that kind of conscientiousness. He said it has to come from the heart.

Each of these individuals — each of you — has been responsible for helping to create strength, stability and self-reliance in so many of your local communities and around the world. Thank you for your continued support. I’m awed by all you’ve helped Habitat accomplish in our 40 years, and I’m excited to imagine what will take place in our next four decades — and beyond.

Habitat is a close-knit family, and all families have favorite stories. Please join us in our anniversary celebration by sharing in the comments below a favorite Habitat memory or a fond wish for Habitat’s future. We can’t wait to hear from you!

— Jonathan T.M. Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO