Though I grew up poor in a small community on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, every family had a home of their own. We were a community that supported one another by celebrating the victories and dividing the grief. Our home was a space to call our own.
As an adult, I volunteered a few times on a Habitat build. I was impressed by seeing families working alongside volunteers. It wasn’t until later when I moved to Albuquerque and was asked to join the board of GAHH that I came to realize the depth of what it took for those families to get to that point of working on their own home.
When I went to my first Habitat home dedication, I had an epiphany. I took for granted that there was always a roof over my head, my worries were for other things. Here was a family that lived in substandard conditions and only dreamed of ever owning their own home.
The tears of joy from the parents as they could barely speak to the crowd, and absolute glee in the children when they showed me their “own rooms” was overwhelming. I knew then that I was called to continue working with Habitat – you could say I got “Habititus.” That was 10 years ago, and the passion is still there, stronger than ever.
GAHH has built 181 homes in Albuquerque. I have had the privilege of witnessing the struggle that families experience as well as watching them work toward fulfilling that dream of homeownership.
The reward of being associated with Habitat is sharing their joy. Just recently, a homeowner came running into my office and gave me a big hug. She said, “It is one year since I got my home. Have you seen it? It is so beautiful! I want you to come see what I have done. And guess what? I pre-paid my mortgage for a whole year, and I am going to pay $250 extra each month from now on. I want to pay my house off in 10 years, so my girls will never have to worry about not having a home like I did.”
Last week, I was with another partner family whose home is not yet finished. The mother told me that she had never dreamed she would graduate from college, but she did. Now, she is going to have a home of her own. She said that once she gets in her home and situated, her next goal will be to go back to school and get her MBA. “Dreams can come true,” she commented. Her son was there and also told me that he definitely will go to college – that is his goal. What we do impacts lives in more ways than I can say, but there is no doubt that having a home is life-changing.
Miss M told me she was homeless twice, and lived in her car with her 2 children. She fought and struggled and managed to get a job and apartment for her family. She was translating at an outreach event where we were looking for families. It was on the second round that it dawned on her that she herself might qualify. She now has a home of her own, a steady job, her daughter graduated recently and was accepted into Culinary School. She volunteers and participates in many of our events and outreach. Her warmth and excitement is contagious, and she is truly a part of our Habitat family here.
There are so many stories to tell – I wish you could hear them all. For us, the tears are always tears of joy. When people invest in GAHH they are in turn investing in changing lives forever. Our investment in low-income families, through educating them on various aspects of homeownership gives them the tools they need to become an active part of a community.
As one homeowner put it, once she turned the key and opened the door to her new home, she asked herself, “Okay, what’s next?”
That last question is a daily mantra here at GAHH. We march forward, looking for more lives to change, more communities to impact and more ways to provide the hope that so many seek. Blessings to all!
GAHH Executive Director