Constructing a new home and lasting memories in
For Joseph and Donna Munro of Porirua, New Zealand, squeezing six children aged two to eleven into a tiny state-subsidized rental house was a daily hardship. But thanks to Habitat for Humanity International Global Village outreach program, a group of 22 Mitte volunteers, and hundreds of hours of ‘sweat equity’ on the part of the Munros, the family now owns its own home – with plenty of room for six growing children.
“For us, owning our own home seemed like a dream we couldn’t obtain,” said Donna Munro. “Neither of our parents owned their own houses either. We’re so overwhelmed that we have an opportunity to own our own home, not just for us, but also for our family to call a home.”
The build team included a mix of Mitte scholars and community volunteers. In addition to five days of hard work on the build site, the group was able to tour some of New Zealand’s spectacular natural assets and cultural treasures.
After arrival in Auckland on October 25, the group visited the legendary Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The Waitomo glowworm (Arachnocampa luminosa) is unique to New Zealand, and thousands of these tiny creatures luminesce in the darkness of these remarkable subterranean caves.
The volunteers also enjoyed the landscapes and even a natural mud bath at Hells Gate Thermal Reserve, located on a volcanic plateau where geothermal activity includes erupting geysers, steaming fumaroles, mud pools and hot geothermal waters.
“When it’s all over, all I can remember is all the people we worked with and the children and everybody’s faces,” said volunteer David Kennedy. “That’s what I keep remembering – that’s the beautiful thing.”
Congratulations are due to both the build team and the Munro family for this wonderful achievement.
A group of Mitte Foundation scholars and community leaders traveled to the Transylvanian Alps of Romania to participate in a Habitat for Humanity build. The project’s goal was to renovate a concrete building into apartment housing for working-class families living near Pitesti, Romania, but the impact of the visit extended far beyond those walls.
The work was labor-intensive as the team dug out trenches, demolished walls, and framed out doors to reconstruct the original building into apartments suitable for families. During breaks and meal times, the group was entertained and befriended by a group of local children who lived in the apartment buildings already completed by Habitat for Humanity.
The dirty and unwelcoming areas in which the children played inspired the group to pool their funds and purchase toys, balls, and hula-hoops for the kids—toys that kept both children and workers smiling throughout the visit.
To address these dismal play conditions, the Mitte Foundation will be funding a playscape for the community to be constructed by Habitat for Humanity later this year.
The group also paid a visit to Bucharest’s Rusescu hospital, a facility for sick children and orphans. Although Romania has transitioned from its infamous orphanage system to a more humane program of foster care, the plight of the children in this hospital touched the hearts of everyone involved. Students spent some time playing with the children and delivered medicine and five dozen beautiful baby blankets hand-made by Susan Reiter, mother of Mitte Scholar and trip participant Daniel Reiter.
Through a program called Fundatia Inocenti, the hospital has three full-time psychologists who run programs for the children, ensuring they receive a minimum of stimulation and contact. The Mitte Foundation has made a donation of $2,500 to Romanian Children’s Relief for the purpose of supporting the Rusescu Pediatric Hospital and its programs. The Foundation has also donated an additional $8,449.00 to Romanian Children’s Relief for a new neonatal incubator for the Institute for Mother and Child Care at Rusescu Hospital.
Learn more about Romanian Children’s Relief/Fundatia Inocenti at www.rcr.org.
Trip participants included:
Cheryl Nolting, Executive Director, The Mitte Foundation, Austin, Texas
Karen Langley, Executive Director, Family Eldercare, Austin, Texas
Bill McHugh, President, Tier1 Group, Austin, Texas
Hilda McHugh, Business Manager, Tier1 Group, Austin, Texas
Cecil Humphrey, President, Digital Interior Concepts, Austin, Texas
Cristin Cecala, Consultant, Digital Interior Concepts, Austin, Texas
Jenna Blasdel, Indiana University Heidi Blocker, Texas State University
Rachel Brody, Texas State University Britnee Daniel, Texas State University
Jake Fullwood, Texas A&M University MBA Student Jace Goodier, Texas A&M University
Anna Kennedy, Texas State University Lisa Koers, Indiana University
Jeffrey Kranzel, Pennsylvania State University Daniel Pohlmann, Texas A&M University
Daniel Reiter, Texas State University Nick Strnad, Ohio State University
Scott Walters, Pennsylvania State University Amanda Wente, Ohio State University
Scott Mitte, Mitte Foundation Senior Vice President, became convinced of Habitat for Humanitys worthy goal of building affordable houses for impoverished communities after participating in the 2002 South African Durban Project (pictures from that trip can be seen here).
Preparations for the next Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP), which takes place biannually, began almost immediately. The appointed site was Veracruz, Mexico, and work was slated for October 22nd to the 30th, 2004.
The Mitte Foundation gave a grant to sponsor two houses and committed to bringing a group of volunteers to assist. Ten Mitte scholarship recipients volunteered, forming the teams along with four community participants and staff from the Foundation. The volunteers included Scott Mitte and Cheryl Nolting from the Mitte Foundation, Family Eldercare Executive Director Karen Langley, Mitte Scholars and Fellows Vanessa Valdez, Daniela Radpay, and Kendra Komar from Texas State University-San Marcos, Robin Vaughan and Edward Uland from Ohio State University, Phillip Asseto, Lauren Messmer, and Brad Segal from Pennsylvania State University, Mitchell Olsen and Scott Doran from Indiana University, and Philip Just, William McHugh, and Santiago Lopez from CTCM Construction.
This humanitarian endeavor provided far more than the building of houses. It offered camaraderie for the teams and future homeowners, creation of international friendships, hours of strenuous manual labor, tired weary bodies, and an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for all parties involved. While the able crew was originally scheduled to build only two sponsored houses from ground level up, upon arrival, Habitat asked the Mitte crew to build a third house and send people to help with a fourth! In all, the Mitte volunteers built four cinderblock homes that included plumbing, electrical, sheet rock, painting, and finish work.
Veracruz is the capital of the state that bears the same name. It is a lovely port city located on the Gulf of Mexico. The chosen building site was in the outlying area where the need for simple, decent, affordable housing was the greatest. The tropical heat and humidity offered an extra challenge. This 2004 JCWP brought together 4,000 Mexican and international volunteers, including President Carter and wife Rosalynn, to complete 150 homes in one week. The JCWP has been affiliated with Habitat for Humanity International (HfFI) for several years, a non-profit ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and making decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat has built more than 150,000 houses worldwide. Volunteers work with future homeowners to build or renovate houses, which are then sold to partner families at no profit, with no interest charged on the mortgage. The money from the sale of each house goes into a revolving Fund for Humanity, to support future building projects.