Harford churches work with Habitat to construct homes

Jeanine Nkurunziza fled her home in Burundi, Africa, in 1994 after war tore the country apart. She has experienced many hard times since she came to Maryland so many years ago but she has never lost her faith, said Joann Blewett, executive director of Harford Habitat for Humanity.

Thanks to Harford Habitat for Humanity, with the help of many local churches, “FaithWorks II: A United Churches Build,” Ms. Nkurunziza and her son, Hosanna, will have a home to call their own in a few weeks.

“She is the most joyful woman we have ever met,” said Ms. Blewett who said Ms. Nkurunziza calls at the beginning of every week and leaves a song of praise in her best singing voice for the people in the habitat office.

The FaithWorksII group is made up of different denominations including four Catholic parishes, Church of the Holy Spirit, Joppa; St. Margaret, Bel Air; St. Mark, Fallston; and St. Joan of Arc, Aberdeen. When the project began in late April the group literally worked from the ground up, adding walls, floors and a roof. The hope is that the house will be finished in the fall, said Joe Hughes, 67, a parishioner of St. Margaret.

“This is not only changing people’s lives but it’s changing the community,” said the committed volunteer. “The kingdom of God needs to begin on earth and this brings it closer.”

Ms. Nkurunziza is required to work 250 “sweat equity hours” on her new home according to the eligibility criteria for a habitat house. Applicants for a habitat home must show a “housing need” meaning their existing house has structural problems, inadequate living space, safety issues or stability problems. She must also be able to pay the mortgage and be a Harford county resident.

“There’s a thrill in helping others, not for the glory of it just in helping someone,” said Mr. Hughes, who is retired. “God says love your neighbor and this is the way to do it.”

According to Ms. Blewett the habitat program does not give away houses. By having the owner help in the building process they learn home maintenance skills. She also said the volunteers are what make the organization so successful.

“These houses are done by people who are generous, compassionate and care about their fellow man,” said Ms. Blewett. “Our biggest need is land to build on and having housing to rehab.”

To volunteer for Harford Habitat for Humanity, to donate land or houses visit www.harfordhabitat.org or call Ms. Blewett at 410-638-4434.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.