Dave's Dominican Republic Trip
There are many misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity and the work we do. Some people think we give houses away. Others may think that Habitat’s work is done only in the U.S. when in fact Habitat for Humanity operates in nearly 70 countries around the globe. The problem in most of these countries is having the funding required to do the work they need to do. In order to help fund Habitat’s work overseas, each U.S. affiliate is asked to tithe a portion of their funding to help fund work in other countries.
Habitat Cabarrus has tithed since 1990 when the first house was completed here. Our tithe is sent to the Dominican Republic (DR) and to date, we have sent over $275,000 there to fund 87 projects (at a current average cost of $4,500 per project). Currently Habitat Cabarrus sends $4,000 from undesignated funds to the DR for every new build house completed here in Cabarrus County and will increase that amount next year to $4,500 to achieve a 1:1 match for every house built here.
Habitat for Humanity in the DR completes new-build concrete block and prefabricated homes in addition to facilitating critical repairs to existing homes.
I had the privilege of participating in a trip to the Dominican Republic this past January with 11 other Executive Directors from around the U.S. The purpose was to better understand how tithe funding from U.S. affiliates is used there to help eliminate substandard housing. It was an eye opening experience. One full day was spent touring projects that had been completed or were in progress in Habitat DR’s target areas in Santo Domingo and another was spent working with local families in those same areas on projects that would benefit them. (the level of poverty housing in these areas is at least 40% and in some places much higher). Habitat DR has now completed 285 projects in these areas since 2010 with the goal being to serve 1000 families.
Aside from the poverty we witnessed, there were a few things that struck me during our visit there. The most obvious was the determination of those we visited with. While they faced very difficult housing situations, their willingness to work hard and patiently to improve those situations was remarkable. Our visits to the completed projects revealed that these projects are completed incrementally (one improvement at a time) and are funded through microfinance loans that are paid back by the families. Our tithe funds are used to fund part of the project with the microfinance loan funding the rest. I was impressed to learn that the families in the DR are invested in the work on their homes in the same way our Habitat homeowners are.
The other thing that was so impressive was seeing first-hand how hard the families work to help complete the work on their houses. Working side by side with them was an honor.
As has so often been my experience in dealing with families facing such difficult circumstances, their positive outlook for their futures was remarkable and their willingness to work hard to improve their situations was so admirable.
Habitat supporters in Cabarrus County should feel very good about the work they have helped to facilitate in partnership with families in need in the DR - as well as the work they have helped make possible for their neighbors locally.