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
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.