In our view: Take a Bow, ‘Women Build’

Habitat for Humanity’s latest project features a new dimension

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When it comes to successful branding by an organization, perhaps nobody has done it as well as Habitat for Humanity.The mere name of the organization reflects its noble ideals, with habitat reflecting a basic human need and humanity reflecting its universal appeal. We are fortunate in Clark County to have an active and thriving chapter of the international organization.

While the local chapter continues the good work that has seen it build more than 20 homes over the past two decades, its latest project comes with a twist. The group is close to finishing a “Women Build” project in the Lincoln neighborhood.

Not only is it the first Habitat for Humanity home in that part of town, it is the first to be planned, designed, and constructed primarily by women. Reportedly, about 1,400 such projects exist nationwide, and it is laudable that Evergreen Habitat has added to that count.

As structural engineer Anne Anderson told The Columbian, “It’s humbling when you make mistakes. But I actually love it. I like how it all goes together.”

There’s a lot to like about how Habitat for Humanity pulls things together. The organization buys land and builds homes for stable, dedicated, working people who live in substandard housing. The eventual homeowners are required to put 300 hours of sweat equity into the homes, assisting the volunteers who are dedicated to bettering the lives of fellow citizens.

Once a project is finished, the residents pay a low-cost, no-interest mortgage that allows Habitat to begin working on additional projects.

It’s a hand up, not a hand out, and the projects are the kind of charity that will pay dividends for generations to come.

While much is made -- deservedly so -- about the issue of homelessness in this country, little is said about those who live in substandard housing. It is a situation that can create a cycle of poverty that trickles down from generation to generation.

For example, Desere and Miguel Bastidas and their two children, who will reside in the Lincoln home, currently are paying $900 a month for a small apartment with chronic mold problems.

“We had to throw away some of the kids’ toys,” Desere said of their mold epidemic.

Both Desere and Miguel have jobs, but they have been unable to save enough to have a home of their own -- until now. Habitat for Humanity will charge them between $400 and $600 a month for their mortgage, with the final total still to be determined.

For their part, the Bastidas will provide their children with a stable, mold-free residence on a site that neighbors say had been a chronic eyesore of a rental home.

“It’s a tremendous project,” said Dave Howard, vice chairman of the Lincoln Neighborhood Association. “They are building a community.”

There likely is no higher praise for an organization. The notion of community so often seems lost these days, with fractured neighborhoods and overriding self-interests. And it is uplifting to be reminded that there are some human endeavors that can bring us together rather than pull us apart.

That is the ethos that drives Habitat for Humanity’s work, and the house in the Lincoln neighborhood has the added benefit of being a “Women Build” project. As Desere Bastidas said, “The first few nails were a little scary. But it’s really empowering.”

That’s an insightful comment. Because while “Habitat for Humanity” might be the perfect description for what the organization does, “Empowerment” could be an equally apt monicker.