Building more than homes

Amy Maracle has lived her entire life on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Thanks to Habitat for Humanity Prince Edward Hastings, she will stay on the territory.

Maracle, 34, and her two young children — Kaylynn, 8, and Cameron, 3 — expect to move into their 1222 Ridge Rd. home by the end of October.

Maracle applied for a Habitat build in the summer of 2017 after seeing an ad on Facebook. In January this year, her reaction was “panic” and “shock” when she found out her application had been accepted.

“I was thinking about leaving the reserve before Habitat,” she said.

Currently a personal support worker student at Kingston Learning Centre, Maracle has been combining her studies with 500 hours of sweat equity required by Habitat from all new homeowners. She also works volunteer hours at Habitat’s ReStore on Bell Boulevard, across the street from Shorelines Casino, in Belleville.

Once completed, her home will have five bedrooms (three finished, and two unfinished in the basement). The home will also have two bathrooms (one unfinished in the basement).

Maracle said her favourite aspects of working on the build are “meeting new people” and “learning how to fix her own home, learning how to fix drywall.”

She has a great deal of pride in her reserve. Earlier this week, a number of volunteers at the site were from the Bay of Quinte Mohawks.

“That’s what the reserve is good for – people helping others,” said Maracle, with obvious pride.

They were working on neighbouring homes: Maracle’s at 1222 Ridge Rd. and April Green’s at 1215 Ridge. (Green was not at the site at the time).

An added bonus for Maracle is the fact her parents, Terry and Linda Bernhardt, live across the street from her new home.

Habitat For Humanity executive director Bob Clute has been involved with the organization for a number of years in many different positions.

The emotion in his voice when describing what working for Habitat is like was palpable. When asked, he took a few moments and said, “I’ve done a lot of things in my life, been involved in many different community organizations … and this is the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Habitat’s effect on his life has been profound, said Clute.

“When some things are tough, my worst days always end up as a diamond (thanks to Habitat For Humanity),” said Clute.

He added the organization is more than just about the builds. He pointed to the number of volunteers at the ReStore in Belleville and the difference that work makes in their lives.

“They (the volunteers) look forward to coming because that’s where their friends are,” said Clute.

In Quinte, Habitat has built nine homes in the past three-and-a-half years, with four more to be started in Trenton this month.

The build numbers have grown exponentially over the last few years. In the last 20 years, Habitat has built 19 homes in Quinte.

Habitat has five groups of people targeted when choosing new homeowners: Single moms (by far, the largest group); Indigenous and Aboriginal people; military veterans; new Canadians (Clute said about 35,000 newcomers arrive to the country every year with nothing); and families with disabilities.

The need has never been greater, said Clute, and the organization’s biggest challenge is financial – raising funds to buy materials.

Those looking to volunteer their time with Habitat For Humanity can call volunteer co-ordinator Andrew Wright at (613-962-7526).

The idea that became Habitat for Humanity first grew from the fertile soil of Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan.

On the farm, Jordan and Habitat’s eventual founders, Millard and Linda Fuller, developed the concept of “partnership housing.” It would involve those in need of adequate shelter working side-by-side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses at no profit. The new homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters to create a revolving fund, which would then be used to build more homes.

In 1973, the Fullers decided to bring the concept to Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. After three years of hard work to launch a successful house building program there, the Fullers then returned to the United States and called together a group of supporters to discuss the future of their dream: Habitat for Humanity International. Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has since grown to become a global nonprofit working in more than 70 countries, including Canada.

The Habitat movement first spread to Canada in 1985, when the country’s first Habitat home was built in Winkler, Manitoba. Just two years later, Winnipeg became Habitat for Humanity Canada’s first local Habitat. Today, Habitat Canada is a leading national nonprofit, with 56 local Habitats working in every province and territory.