Helping Others Help Themselves

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The Problem

'Helping Others Help Themselves' is a community service project that benefits my local Habitat for Humanity affiliate. The local affiliate was initiated in 2006, and after discovering about it, I along with several members of my Future Business Leaders of America club wanted to get involved. I began to research ways to get started, and discovered how to initiate a Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter in my high school, which would be only the third Campus Chapter in my state. After filling out all the paperwork, hosting a conference call, and paying the start-up and annual dues, the Campus Chapter recieved the necessary charter to begin. I was voted Chairman of the organization in the beginning year, and still hold that position. I am responsible for keeping in touch with the local affiliate, and keep the members of the Campus Chapter informed on what is needed to be done to benefit affiliate. Over the past two years, we have raised over $5,000 on our own, and helped the afflilate raise over $50,000. For those who don't know, Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit organization who strives to provide safe, affordable homes for those in need. Despite what many may believe, Habitat does not give homes out for free. Once a recipient is carefully selected after proving true need, showing capability to pay a no-interest mortage payment, and displaying the ability to help build their new home and attend workshops on how to care for it, the house is started. All recipients are expected to donate 500 hours of 'sweat equity', which is helping construct their own home as well as helping with the next Habitat home. They also must attend several workshops on caring for the house, and must pay a no-interest loan. Habitat homes cost approximately $50,000 in my local area. By being involved in the construction, as well as paying for the house, the recipients recieve a greater feeling of ownership for their home, because they are recieving a 'hand-up', not a 'hand-out'. On December 29, 2007, we helped the affiliate complete the first Habitat home in our area! I along with other members volunteered time at the house on several Saturdays to help with anything we were capable of. Painting, cleaning, and installing insulation were some of the various tasks assigned to us. I recently purchased holiday wreaths and a poinsettia to welcome the family into their new home, and the organization gave the family a voucher to purchase a brand new dishwasher and garbage disposal. After informing the family and affiliate of our gift, we were delighted to find out that the recipient, a single mother of three children, had never owned a dishwasher before. This really touched every member of our Campus Chapter and inspired us to continue volunteering and giving our best. With the first house completed, a second family has already been selected and construction will begin soon. One of our main goals as a Campus Chapter, along with being of great benefit to our affiliate chapter, is to eventually purchase a lot to donate to the affiliate so that another family can recieve a well-deserved home. Besides helping the affiliate chapter, our Campus Chapter strives to help spread awareness of Habitat for Humanity in our area, as well as encourage volunteerism. I have recorded Public Service Announcements for local radio stations and submitted photos and descriptions of our project for local newspapers so that everyone in our surrounding area will know about Habitat for Humanity, and know that they too can help. The Campus Chapter has also hosted assemblies and class presentations at our school for both elementary and high school students. Several other clubs, including the Future Farmers of America organization in our school, have volunteered their time after hearing about our efforts. Community members and entrepreneurs have also donated their time and wares to our project after we explained what Habitat for Humanity was all about, and what we were doing to help.

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