Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity Canada

Few memories evoke a sense of nostalgia quite like those of your childhood home. Warm, welcoming and inviting, this was a place where you always felt safe and secure. As adults we strive to give our kids the carefree upbringing they deserve, unfortunately reality is far less idyllic for the 1.6 million families living in substandard housing.

Since 1976 Habitat for Humanity International has made it their mission to end the vicious cycle of poverty by providing safe, decent and affordable homes for families in need. Mobilized through their affiliates, Habitat for Humanity builds these homes using volunteer labour and as much donated or cost-reduced material as possible. Each house is then financed to their partner family at no profit with a no-interest mortgage — money which will eventually be used to help other low-income families. In addition to mortgage payments, each homeowner invests hundreds of hours of their own labour, called “sweat equity” into the building of their home and the homes of others.

In 1985 the Habitat for Humanity movement came to Canada — 30 years later there are now 56 affiliates across the country and more than 2,800 builds have been completed. This extraordinary growth wouldn’t have been possible without the help of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn.

The couple got involved with the non-profit in 1984 when they took their first Habitat work trip, the Jimmy Carter Work Project (JCWP), to New York City. This Project is now an annual event, taking place in a different location each year. As the charities’ highest profile advocates they have been instrumental in increasing visibility and interest in the organization throughout North America and around the world. President Carter has also been at the helm of many fund-raising events and has participated alongside other volunteers at the Jimmy Carter Work Projects — including the first one in Canada back in 1993.

While the non-profit has made enormous strides, 3.3 million Canadians remain in desperate need of proper housing. On November 22, 2016 we recognized National Housing Day in Canada and were forced to take a hard look at the realities of the housing crisis in Canada. Much of this need is right here in our own backyard. With a real estate market consistently on the rise, affordable housing is a hot button issue in Toronto. This is why the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has been selected as one of the locations for the Carter Work Project in 2017. President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn will be in Canada next year for Habitat for Humanity’s 34th Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project to help build 150 homes for Canada’s 150th anniversary — Habitat Canada’s biggest build project ever!

Habitat for Humanity GTA is set to be the largest beneficiaries of this build with 50 of these homes being built in Scarborough, Ontario from July 9–14, 2017. The remaining 100 homes will be built across the country in 40 different communities.

“Given the affordable housing shortage in the GTA and all across Canada, it couldn’t be a better time for the Carters to be coming to Canada to help us celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday,” said Ene Underwood, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area. “The Carters are so committed to this cause of providing a hand up to working, low-income families to help them build greater stability, independence and ultimately a better life for their families.”

By supporting Habitat for Humanity Canada you’re providing much more than bricks and mortar, you’re giving Canadian families the support they need to build a better life. Prior to purchasing a Habitat home, many of these families couldn’t afford a conventional mortgage and were spending over 50 per cent of their income on rent. Now they’re not only building equity, their financial situation often improves since the percentage of their income being spent on housing remains proportional to their income.

Long-term this stability raises the whole family. Children are happier and more outgoing, leading to improved grades and better health. Parents also are able to flourish now they have the financial breathing room they need to return to school, learn a new trade, or upgrade their job skills.

Each year about 70,000 volunteers work with 56 Habitat for Humanity affiliates nationwide, helping hundreds of Canadian families have a brighter future.

For the community the benefits are tenfold. Renters become homeowners who contribute to the tax base and are less dependent on local social services. Overall a stronger sense of community is fostered, where all walks of life come together and work side by side in a meaningful way.

Join Habitat for Humanity in their mission to break the cycle of poverty and provide safe, decent and affordable homes for Canadian families in need. Get involved with Habitat GTA for the 2017 Carter Work Project running July 9–14, 2017 in Scarborough. Whether you join as a sponsor, donor or volunteer you are helping a family like yours have a new start.

Find out more at habitatgta.ca.