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March 28, 2002 Concordia students take part in Habitat for Humanity



Habitat for Humanity

High on volunteer house-building are, left to right, students Teoma Naccarato, Caterina Panzera, chaplain Peter Côté, Ilona Dougherty and Sandy Schaffhauser.

by Barbara Black

During Reading Week, from Feb. 17 to 23, chaplain Peter Côté went to Philadelphia with four students to participate in a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) build.

“The HFH affiliate we were working with is in Germantown, a fascinating part of Philly,” he reported in an e-mail. “In the late 18th century, it was settled by Quaker and German Mennonite immigrants, and parts of the neighbourhood still have homes dating back to that period.”

Now, however, it is a poor, rundown neighbourhood with many abandoned houses and vacant lots.

“Habitat for Humanity flourishes in neighbourhoods such as this,” Côté said. “It brings people together to build decent, affordable housing for and with those in need.

“The recipients must participate in the building of their own home, or assist in some other way. This ‘sweat equity’ earns them an interest-free mortgage on a low-cost home they can afford, built largely with volunteer labour and supplies.

“The family our home was destined for is a single mother with four kids. She works as a bank teller and so gives her labour on the weekends. Her commitment is 350 hours.”

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller in Americus, Georgia. It has spread throughout the world, including a Canadian organization and one affiliate in Montreal, working in the southwest of the city. An integral component of Habitat is the campus chapters.

“Our effort in Philadelphia was the first stage in establishing a student chapter here at Concordia. Down the road, the group will be involved in a Montreal build this summer and work towards another Reading Week trip next year. Jamaica is a possibility, as the Canadian HFH has a partnership relationship with HFH Jamaica.

“As well, they will be involved in educating the community on housing issues in our own area.”

The students who went to Philadelphia set up information and recruitment tables in the Hall Building when they came back, and shared their experience with other students. Now, Côté says, they have a list of 80 students who have indicated interest, and an information session is being planned for later this month.

Sandy Schaffhauser is the student coordinator and catalyst of the Habitat project. The other students on the trip were Caterina Panzera, Ilona Dougherty and Teoma Naccarato.