When Habitat for Humanity was thinking of ways to celebrate their 25th Anniversary, I offered them the idea of showcasing the lives of the people who Habitat served throughout the world. Having been associated with the organization for several years, I had seen firsthand how lives were changed through the process of owning a house. Even more compelling, however, were the variety of circumstances and needs that people from different countries brought to the organization in pursuing home ownership. In the United States, the people Habitat served were generally ambitious, hardworking families and individuals who needed just a little bit more help to actually own a home instead of renting one. Despite what people might think, Habitat is not an organization dedicated to providing shelter for otherwise homeless people. Rather, it is transformative in how it instills a new set of values, responsibilities, security and pride through homeownership.
But in countries in the Third World, Habitat homeownership is even more dramatic. People are saved from dilapidated and inadequate shelter through the creation of a simple decent home. In the more than seventy countries it works in throughout the world, Habitat adapts itself to the circumstances and the structural likelihoods and creates something significantly better. By American standards, these homes might still seem less than impressive. Often, they are nothing more than adobe huts or simple, sturdy structures without electricity or running water. But compared to the shelter rigged up with aluminum and cardboard, the Habitat homes are safe, comfortable, and life changing.
The people of the world who approach Habitat do so for a wide range of reasons, from political strife to economic need. The play is meant to tell their stories. I visited five different countries and interviewed homeowners in each to create a compelling overview of need throughout the world. The stories I encountered were remarkable. The circumstance people have had to live through simply amazing. Yet all of them are brought together by a fundamental desire to make their lives and the lives of their children better. Habitat has addressed that need by providing the most fundamental resource required for living a better life: a safe, decent place to live.