By BRENDAN MCDANIEL
On Sunday, Aug. 26, volunteers from across the nation gathered in Notre Dame’s Purcell Pavilion to kick off the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. Multiple high-profile guests appeared and spoke at the event, from South Bend’s Mayor Pete Buttegieg to former Late Show host, David Letterman, with video presentations created by Habitat for Humanity International. The rally brought the project’s greater significance to the South Bend and Mishawaka community to light.
The Carter Work Project, an annual initiative started by the former First Family, will be building a community of 23 homes for low-income families who have demonstrated both the need and the ability to pay for affordable housing, paid for and built by volunteers for Habitat for Humanity International. Habitat for Humanity is an international organization founded in Americus, Georgia, that organizes the construction of houses for families who have applied. The Carter Work Project is a small part of Habitat for Humanity, and has provided its services across the world since 1986. Notable build sites include South Korea, Hungary, and India.
The 2002 project in South Africa became demonstrative of an international advancement in human rights, as the project’s racially integrated community provided one of the first and largest in the nation after the end of apartheid less than a decade earlier. In the 2011 and 2012 projects in Haiti, the new homes helped the island nation to pick up the pieces after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake. During the rally, John Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International, boasted that the Carter Work Project’s housing became the safest place on the island during 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, and allowed the island’s residents a secure location to weather the massively destructive hurricane.
This year’s South Bend and Mishawaka Carter Work Project will involve volunteers from all walks of life, from people who have never held a hammer before to large companies such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. These volunteers are donating both their time and money to join former President Carter in building the homes. The project is being overseen and organized by the Saint Joseph County chapter of Habitat for Humanity. According to their website, the project will use 2000 volunteers to work on a total of 40 homes over the course of a five-day week, with 23 being new and 17 being repaired.
The Carters and company planned to only just be finishing up the bulk of construction and holding their private closing ceremonies later on Friday evening. The long-term effects of the Carter Work Project on the South Bend and Mishawaka communities are difficult to speculate on with any degree of accuracy, but at a minimum, it can be guaranteed that over 20 local families will be able to live in high-quality housing that they themselves helped to create. While the Carter Work Project itself may be over, and the former president may be departing from South Bend after the weekend, there are still plenty of opportunities for interested parties to get involved with similar projects. Habitat for Humanity operates two ReStores in the South Bend area, which take donations of building materials and furniture and sells them at low cost, and smaller build projects are frequent occurrences for those wishing to devote their labor to improving their community.