December 24th, 2010

Here at Kaua`i Habitat for Humanity, there are some special moments when we see the results of our work with unusual clarity.  Some of these moments are vibrant public occasions like volunteers raising the wall of a house, or a new homeowner accepting the keys to their home.  Some are smaller, quiet moments, but equally profound. On the day of Christmas Eve 2010, we attended a different sort of house blessing. The homeowner – I’ll call her Silvia – is one of the earliest of our 103 homeowners and she had many challenges in her life over recent years.  In addition to the difficult economy, other misfortunes caused her to retreat from her life.  She retreated so far it was hard for her to come back to the responsibilities and joys of her life.

But Silvia did come back, through her own hard work, and with the love and support of family and friends. And Kaua`i Habitat helped. We helped her to remain in her home, making catch-up payments and working out a new payment schedule for the rest of her mortgage.

One of the core values of Habitat for Humanity is that our partner families are the agents of their own success. Habitat for Humanity is a helping hand, not a handout. We are there with our homeowners as they build their new home. We are there too when they struggle to make their mortgage payments.  We are there when they fall behind and we help them find a new way, but they are the ones that get up each day to walk their own path.

Silvia wanted to have her house and yard blessed to drive out old habits and pressures and to signify a new beginning in her life. It was a small gathering, no more than a dozen of us, some family members and neighbors.  But she specifically invited Kaua`i Habitat for Humanity to be there among them because of our part in helping her through.

And you were there too. One of the amazing things about our work is the sheer number of people of goodwill that help us to do what we do. There are hundreds of you – donors, volunteers, and people who support us in other ways. And I was proud and humbled to be able to represent all of you as we stood there in support of Silvia’s hard work and new resolve to live her life with pride and integrity. Your support was part of that encouraging circle that came around Silvia to commemorate a new beginning.

One of Silvia’s neighbors gave a scripture reading and offered her own observations on how far Silvia has come back to them. Family members brought out the ukulele and we sang hymns, prayers and Christmas carols. We gave Silvia a large, healthy fern plant for her yard as a symbol of her own new growth. And Silvia fed us all with her `ono chicken luau lunch and the pleasure of each other’s company. What a wonderful way to start the Christmas celebrations!

Silvia’s story is one example of how we work with families that stumble when trying to live out their own best intentions.  The economic downturn has cut a devastating swath through Kaua`i’s hard-working families. More than ever, people here need the stability of living in a clean, decent home with a truly affordable monthly payment. I am so proud of how we have been able to offer compassionate support to our families that have gone through tough times these past two years.

Thank you for being part of Kaua`i Habitat’s extended `ohana. You are essential not only to the sheer number of homes we can build, but to how we respond when troubles arise in our homeowners’ lives.

It is a privilege to be part of people’s lives as they make the empowering journey of a Habitat for Humanity homeowner. And it is a privilege to represent the compassion and goodwill of all of you, our supporters, as we give them that helping hand.

Stephen Spears, Executive Director