UConn Habitat for Humanity: A hand up, not a hand out

Five members of UConn's campus chapter participated in a workday in Willimantic, Connecticut on Saturday Sept. 23 with Habitat for Humanity.  Habitat for Humanity's overall goal is to provide sustainable and affordable housing to qualifying families. (photo provided by author)

Five members of UConn's campus chapter participated in a workday in Willimantic, Connecticut on Saturday Sept. 23 with Habitat for Humanity.  Habitat for Humanity's overall goal is to provide sustainable and affordable housing to qualifying families. (photo provided by author)

When one hears of the organization, Habitat for Humanity, one’s assumes their mission would most likely be to build and give away houses. While this may be partially true, its overall goal is to provide sustainable and affordable housing to qualifying families.

One major slogan Habitat for Humanity founds itself upon is that they provide: “A Hand Up, not a Hand Out.” Habitat for Humanity does not give away houses to the homeless. Rather, the families must meet the standards for the program and most importantly, must be living in some sort of substandard housing. The families must continue to build their own future by completing at least 500 hours of sweat equity and an educational component on wealth management. Sweat equity is when the homeowner is able to get out onto a worksite and help construct a home. This requirement enforces the idea that the home they’re building is either theirs or another family’s, and it also able to teach them skills they wouldn’t have known otherwise.

While sweat equity is beneficial for an emotional connection with their home, the educational component with the affiliate helps to prevent home foreclosures. Each member, whether they be a volunteer or staff, comes together in order to help families in need. This idea of a “hand up” aligns with the founder, Millard Fuller’s, original concept of “partnership housing.”

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that spans from our own community in Windham, Conn. to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Shanghai, China. Habitat for Humanity provides volunteers with an opportunity throughout the world to make a difference. I, in the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, want to, “Be the change (I) wish to see in the world,” and Habitat for Humanity allows me to be and make that change. I have worked with Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County in Conn. in the past, and I have pursued Habitat here at UConn too.

On Saturday Sept. 23, I and four other members of our campus chapter represented UConn as we participated in a workday in Willimantic, Connecticut. As we walked up to the worksite, I realized, despite my previous experience, how much the volunteers mean to the family receiving the home.

I have now been able to grasp this idea that is there is a difference between one’s house and a “home.” While a house is a physical embodiment of place to live, one’s “home” is where not only their family is, but it is where they believe they belong. Habitat provides some of the basic amenities that I take for granted, and that idea helped to make every nail that I hammered and every drop of sweat just that much more personal and powerful.

The workday with my fellow Huskies allowed me to be even more introspective and understand my true impact. Millard Fuller once said, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people's love and concern for each other.” This idea is one that the UConn community is trying to inspire through fundraising and monthly workdays in our own local neighborhoods. The workday was centered around building and putting up two of the house’s longest walls. I found it interesting that as we built the walls, we were quite literally building the future of our community.

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that spans from our own community in Windham, Conn. to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Shanghai, China. (photo provided by author) 

Habitat for Humanity is an international organization that spans from our own community in Windham, Conn. to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Shanghai, China. (photo provided by author) 

Becoming involved on campus with Habitat for Humanity has been one of the best decisions of my college experience thus far. Knowing that everything I did at the worksite helped others, made me so proud that I was able to say that I made a difference in someone’s future.

After all the heavy lifting was over, we had an opportunity to sign our names on the walls we had built. This physical representation of our time volunteering and our hard work made it that much more meaningful. Much like how I have made a change in my community, Habitat has changed me as well, allowing me to become more selfless and aware of my ability to create change.

Through this very interactive program, Habitat has not only created sustainable houses, but with the help of volunteers, Habitat can build “homes” and brighter futures for families in need.


Mark Wezenski is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at mark.wezenski@uconn.edu.