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Let Us Build Together

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Tricia Natoli

Shortly after my arrival in Australia in 1988 I took a social work position in Child Protection. There I met another social worker, Robin, we had a lot in common and quickly became good friends. She had had a long career in teaching, and I had been a Children and Families worker in England, prior to immigrating. For many years we worked together, then enjoyed socialising with meals and cinema. We then began to go on holiday, and in 1997 ventured to Fiji. In the resort where we stayed there was a large group of people, all wearing T-shirts proclaiming, “A hand up, not a hand-out. Habitat for Humanity”. Curious to know more, on our return home we began to research what this was all about.

What we discovered appealed to our sense of social justice. HfH is an international charity founded in the USA in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller as a non-government, non-profit organisation which aims to fight global poverty housing, defined not simply as homelessness, but also where more than 30% of household income goes to pay housing costs. These days many people in poverty housing can be found in Australia, England and Canada, and HfH is active in these countries, as well as in over 70 other countries around the world. Prospective homeowners must donate time to build for others, accumulating “sweat equity” as a deposit. They must also be in a position to pay the interest-free 20-year loan, based on 95 percent of the market value. Not charity, definitely not a hand-out, but a hand up.

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