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I'm advocating for a more sustainable National Service program that does not rely heavily on Congressional appropriations each year.

Today is a special, special day folks…it’s WORLD HABITAT DAY! WHD is an international holiday designated by the United Nations as the first Monday of October. The purpose of World Habitat Day is to bring attention to issues of shelter and housing worldwide.

Let’s face it, we look outside our picture window and see immaculately groomed lawns, stone facades, and children playing wiffle ball safely in the culdesac. Lovely, right? Well, most of the world does NOT see this pleasant image when they look out their window. Nearly a BILLION people see something along these lines…

With a population of 1 million, Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa.

According to UN Habitat, one out of every three city dwellers – nearly a billion people – lives in a slum. Slums lack adequate services that we all take for granted and meerly overlook (Slum indicators include: lack of water, lack of sanitation, overcrowding, non-durable structures and insecure tenure.)

A child stands in front of a place of business in Kenya's Kibera slum.

Habitat for Humanity hopes that by raising awareness and advocating for universal decent housing we can dismantle and alter the systems that allow for poverty housing and make an affordable, decent place to live a reality for all.

In addition to building homes in partnership with people in need, Habitat advocates to address the causes of poverty housing. Advocacy activities always include a specific request, such as asking supporters to sign a petition or sending a message to an elected official.

As I wrote last time, Habitat International is putting together a worldwide photo petition to send to Congress. Austin Habitat for Humanity has made huge efforts to contribute to this photo advocacy campaign by asking their volunteers, staff, board members, and partner families, “What will YOU build?”

Austin Habitat has collected nearly 150 pictures thus far to contribute to Habitat International’s photo wall . Check them out on our flickr group!

If you want to get involved, upload your own photo to the wall and take action now by emailing your Congressmen in support of safe and decent housing.

p.s. Watch this great vid about Austin Habitat…

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My favorite response thus far…“WALKABLE STREETS.” There are so many good answers to this question, and I am very excited to find out what local Austinites have to say.  Tomorrow I will be taking Habitat for Humanity International’s World Habitat Day photo campaign to five on-going construction sites of Austin Habitat for Humanity.

The World Habitat Day Photo Wall is a global petition to demonstrate the support of adequate housing for all as a legislative priority. This year, HFHI hopes to collect more than 3,000 photos from Habitat supporters all around the world.

As a new member of the Volunteer Services department of Austin Habitat, I am syked to have the opportunity to work with so many dedicated volunteers and to spread the message of World Habitat Day over the next few weeks. So…

What is World Habitat Day?

  • What? World Habitat Day is a day for grassroots action, a time for people to unite against substandard housing worldwide.
  • When? Monday, Oct. 4, 2010. The first Monday in October was designated World Habitat Day by the U.N. General Assembly in 1985.
  • Why? Families face a daily struggle for mere survival. Substandard dwellings leave people vulnerable to disease, crime, malnutrition and natural disasters.World Habitat Day calls attention to the tremendous need for decent, affordable housing all over the world. It recognizes the basic need all human beings have for adequate shelter.
  • How many? One billion people, one-sixth of the world’s population, live in deplorable conditions in dilapidated slums and shantytowns. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 2 billion.
  • Who? You. World Habitat Day reminds people everywhere of our collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.

(This is a nice little excerpt from the official World Habitat Day brochure which has loads of great information if you want to know more about this U.N. holiday)

Want to do your part?? Take action now! Also, whip out that new digital cam and submit your own photo today!


One of the tent cities that has sprung up around Port-au Prince, Haiti after the earthquake.

So everyone knows the deal in Haiti.  Devastation.  Destruction.  DISASTER.  Habitat for Humanity International is responding to this disaster and addressing shelter solutions, including the delivery of shelter kits.  These kits are intended to help families construct or repair temporary shelters and provide a safer and cleaner environment to live in as we begin to rebuild Haiti.  

If you are in the Atlanta area, and would like to DIRECTLY help Haiti, we need your help!  This week, we are assembling over 8,000 shelter kits to be shipped to Port-au Prince, Haiti.  Whirlpool is graciously assisting us by providing enormous warehouse space for the preparation and assembly of the kits.  

We’ll be assembling them Monday through Thursday of this week and really need additional volunteers for Monday and Thursday.  You can sign-up for half day or full day shifts between 9 am and 5 pm.  Sign-up online with Hands On Atlanta. 

If you aren’t in the area, but would still like to help, please pass this information along to anyone you know near Atlanta that may want to volunteer.  Also, check out our website for other ways you can help.

lets do it again!

ready for round two

Before you get too excited, let me clarify…I am doing Bike & Build again this year, not a cross-country summer trip, but an alumni ride over New Years! It’s called the Chris Webber Memorial Ride (or CWM as we like to say) and goes from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  It’s reserved only for those who have braved a summer (or two) of cross-country cycling and are jonesing for another blissful Bike & Build experience…only this time it’s a tenth of the distance, flat as a board, and still worth every minute.

 

Now I’m faced with another fundraising challenge, but no where near as intimidating as that staggering 4G I conquered a few months ago [FYI, I ended up raising nearly $5,000 (including in-kind gifts) for my last journey].  For CWM, we’re required to raise $375 in order to go on the trip.  This money goes toward the CWM Fellowship which supports affordable housing projects conducted by Bike & Build alum.

 

Once again, I’m asking for a little help in reaching my fundraising goal.  This trip is like Bike & Build on crack, everything happens so quick…my deadline to raise the funds is merely weeks away!! By DECEMBER 1st I need to have raised the $375…so please donate whatever you can.

 

Rest assured, I have pledged my commitment to this cause with a hundred dollar donation as well as a firm letter to Santa stating that all I want for Christmas is to do Bike & Build once again.  I greatly appreciate any help you can offer in supporting my trip and the affordable housing cause.

 

My friend Brad is AMAZING and has created some of the best Bike & Build vids of all time!  The one above is my favorite, but definitely check out the others found on our B2SB youtube channel:

 

youtube.com/user/b2sb09

 

Oh and I just had to throw in our mustache vid as well…

"It all starts at home" photo petition sent to Obama

Isn’t that awesome!?  Remember the “It all starts at home” photo petition I blogged about?  Well, Habitat took the thousands of photos people submitted (including one from me, my sis, AND Kenny Roger!) and put together this sweet collage that makes up the World Habitat Day logo. 

 

Now, as you may or may not know, this Monday (Oct. 5) is WORLD HABITAT DAY.  It is a U.N holiday that occurs the first monday of October every year.  The purpose is to globally unite and declare that the lack of decent, affordable housing is unacceptable.  Raising awareness and advocating for change are the first steps toward transforming systems that perpetuate poverty housing.

 

I’d like to ask a small favor…if you believe in the basic human right to safe and decent shelter, then please take a moment to send this photo petition to congress and to Ask Congress to Make Housing A Priority on World Habitat Day!  It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes a world of difference…literally.

 

 

If you’d like to educate yourself about the problem, check out these statistics and research about poverty housing in the U.S. and around the world.  It’s easiest to point to the slum conditions abroad to demonstrate the extreme (and terrible) conditions people are living in.   I would highly recommend this documentary, Slum Survivors, which talks about the largest slum in the world (Kibera, located in Kenya).  It provides great insight as to what it’s like to live in a slum and what substandard housing actually means. [Click the link…you can watch the whole thing online!]

 

Kibera - Kenya

 

To start making a difference, visit AdvocateWithHabitat.org to voice your support for an end to poverty housing both in our nation and abroad.

 

santa barbs

Since I had the official journal entry for Day 65 going into SANTA BARBARA, CA, I thought I would just share it here with you.  I’ll jazz it up a bit, then post some final reflections to close this lovely blog out.

 

Santa Paula to SANTA BARBARA, CA

August 20th, 2009

 

The day started out in Santa Paula, waking up with tons of excitement in the air. Everyone was in good spirits, singing and dancing as they packed up for the last time. With “the Killers” and epic “Boondock Saints” music playing in the background, it was quite surreal watching everyone clean up and get ready for the final ride. We had a phenomenal breakfast provided by the Church of Christ, including scrambled eggs, large, fluffy pancakes, and freshly picked California oranges and grapefruits (yum). Our cue sheet meeting was pretty memorable when Denis and Ravi pumped us up with a Bike and Build version of the “Cool Runnings” speech.

 

The weather on this Thursday morning was very grim…cloudy, drizzly, and cool. It reminded us all of our departure from Revere Beach, Massachusetts where we had precisely the same weather. We all laughed about it as we slipped on our arm-warmers and saddled up for the ride.

 

The ride was short and enjoyable. I rode on the “sweep team” which included Megan, Cali, Ali, and myself. The day was filled with DM (donation magic) and beautiful sights. We had free coffee and donuts for second breakfast, then free subway for lunch. Thanks for the support!

 

 

Our ride was mainly on a bike path that followed the coast, giving us our very first views of the Pacific. A few miles before the beach, we all met up at Lookout Park and as we approached it, the grey skies opened up and the clouds quickly scattered away. Rolling into the park, the sun shined brightly down on all the bikers laying in the grass with the beach and ocean right before our eyes.

 

Riding 31 deep for the last few miles to East Beach, Santa Barbara was one of the most exciting moments of the trip. We took the town by storm, dominating bike paths and whole lanes of traffic. My heart was racing as we caught a breath-taking view of this coastal cliff rising from the beach, filled with palm trees and colorful flowers. It was truly amazing.

 

 

As you may know, one of our beloved riders, Sarah Royal, broke her elbow two weeks ago. We all wanted to finish together, so we picked her up with a mile left to the beach. It was such a cinematic moment seeing her waiting at the start of the bike path in this crazy bike contraption. It was a three-wheeler with a full seat so that she could lean back and just use her one good arm while cycling in the last mile.

 

 

She led the pack all the way to East Beach where we were greeted with a fanatic group of family and friends. They cheered us on with their oversized Bike and Build signs and along with the screaming riders, we caused quite the commotion. We pulled up to the beach, threw down our bikes and ripped off our jerseys. A finish line/chute had been set up, so we sprinted down the beach whizzing past the colored flags and diving straight into the Pacific. It was the moment we had all been waiting for…singing our trip song, “Build me up Buttercup” in the Pacific. Such an epic moment, so well earned. Bottles of champagne were popped and we all celebrated the insane achievement that we had accomplished TOGETHER.

 

 

 

Jacqui’s mom continued with her habits of generous baking by bringing a very large tray of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies to the beach (they were still warm from the oven!). The beach was spectacular and just looked like a little slice of heaven.  We all lined up and dipped our front tires into the Pacific to mark the completion and end of an epic journey.

 

 

The rest of the afternoon involved biking another few miles to the church we were staying at, fighting traffic on our long journey to shower at the YMCA, and getting spruced up for our end-of-trip celebration. We had a banquet at the Santa Barbara Golf Course with riders and their families. Each leader gave a brief speech/presentation…Ali did a picture slideshow recapping the trip, Megan read a poem that she composed, and Nathan worked his magic in getting a widely popular live performance of one of our favorite songs, “Frustrating” (Brad Milison and Aaron Goldstein). We laughed, we cried, we laughed again (and again, and again) as we reminisced about our wonderful journey and all the great memories we’ve had. Following the banquet, drinks and wild celebration ensued late into the night. Good times all around.

 

Boston to Santa Barbara was an AMAZING trip and even though it is quite possibly the most intense route (thanks José!) I know that we are all so proud and thankful to have been a part of B2SB. SHOUT OUTS to all our gracious and generous parents, especially those who provided some wonderful meals and mail-drop goodies. Thanks to everyone who supported and followed our journey, we couldn’t have done it without you.

 

B2SB

Alright, I admit this is way overdue, but better late than never, right?  I’m actually down in Americus, GA, where I have been officially welcomed to the South….yesterday, at a youth rec soccer game I learned that “hands” is a two-syllable word (pronounced “hay-ends”).  I love it.  But back to where I left off…the final days in Cali:

 

  • luscious descent – leaving Palmdale, we finally exited the desert in quite a dramatic fashion.  Of course, the day started with miles of climbing, but then it led into one of the most pleasant and welcomed descents of the trip.  We followed winding roads down the mountain into a luscious green, california valley.  There was the smell of citrus in the air, and for the first time in what felt like an eternity, we felt cool…actually, even a bit nippy.  There was SHADE! We had forgotten what it was like to experience shade, and it was literally a breath of fresh air.  It was funny because as we passed through the shade we would go in and out of cold and hot pockets, and you could really feel the difference. 
  • in n’ out – a classic west coast burger joint, known for its “secret” menu.  When first observing the menu over the counter, it seems quite small and simple.  Fools.  There’s so much more that you have to know before you go…”animal style” is where it’s at.
  • six flags – Santa Clarita is home of the L.A. area’s very own Six Flags, so naturally we had to go.  We ended up going to their water park, Hurricane Harbor, and had a grand ole time.  We got a group discount, but inside it was hella expensive ($14 for a fountain soda! $7 to rent a tube for the lazy river!).  The rides were lots of fun, especially the vortex/taco, but our six flags experience went so fast due to the incredibly long waits (ironic, right?). 
the vortex

the vortex

  • grants – as you know, Bike and Build facilitates a competitive grant process for youth-oriented affordable housing groups.  I was super excited to discuss and disburse the funds we raised to some very deserving groups across the country.  We had roughly $18,000 to give out in grants, and after long debates, we chose Youth United of Vegas, Habitat of Lowell – Mass, Tulsa Habitat, and Rebuilding Together of Springfield – Mass.  I’m really proud of where are money is going…especially the youth united group in Vegas because they had a really outstanding grant application, and I know that this grant will make an impact on a completely youth-sponsored, youth-built Habitat home. YAY YOUTH UNITED!
  • smokin joes – another example of two constants of our bike and build trip: 1) extremely generous parents, 2) we destroy toilets…destroy.  So, Alex’s mom was super nice and took us all out to lunch on our short, 35 mi day into Santa Clarita.  Lunch was delicious, even though we overwhelmed their kitchen and waited almost two hours for our burgers…on top of that, we all were suffering a bit because after about a half-hour of being at the restaurant, we managed to clog their toilet and consequently flood the bathroom.  Sorry Smokin Joes…
  • citrus disaster – going into Santa Paula was a day full of citrus.  We smelled it all along our ride, and then stumbled upon our first orange orchards!  Naturally, Emmy and I stopped to explore the orchard…but we got ourselves into a wee bit of trouble.  Emmy picked a ripe orange from the tree, and moments later we were confronted by a large, scary man in a pick-up truck.  He confiscated the orange and warned us that we were in line for a $1500 fine!  He let us go with a warning…but not before reminding me (just me) that there was a restroom down the road and I should not even think about pissin on his orchard.
  • citrus delight – as i said, the day was filled with citrus.  When we got into Santa Paula, our wonderful host (Church of Christ) had provided us with a crate full of oranges!  They were freshly picked from one of the parishioner’s yards and they were simply delicious.  Incredibly juicy, and such a fantastic treat.  I ate two on the spot, and then peeled one for our gimp, Royals, who was very appreciative.
  • Church of Christ(mas) – this host was really superb…felt like christmas in august.  First, they had the fantastic oranges.  Then, they shuttled us to parishioner’s houses for luxurious private showers.  In the evening, we were royally spoiled with an insane amount of food…including a wide array of pasta, meat, veggies, fruit, and DESSERT!  I had the most scrumptious chocolate cheesecake…yummm.  There was a huge showing from the community, which is always cool to have.  Before dinner, the pastor made an announcement saying that no one could eat until each rider had gotten seconds.  This was a bit radical, but incredibly generous and considerate (one of our biggest fears is running out of food after having  just burned 5,000 calories).  There were a surprising amount of children there, and I got to sit with a precious little family.  It was a mother, her two daughters, and their grandmother.  They were asking us all about our trip, and were really enthused about it.  Towards the end of dinner, one of the little girls said, “I can’t wait till I’m eighteen so I can do Bike & Build!”  Her mother was supportive, and it was just so…cute.
  • ceremonial mustache shaving – Santa Paula was our last stop before Santa Barbara, so it was determined that the molestache challenge would end there.  We had a ceremonial mustache shaving at a local bar that fully supported our endeavours.  Emmy had the honors of shaving each participant’s stache…starting with the best of the best, Denis.  It was really tough for her, and she protested at first, but finally Emmy was able to pull herself together and shave five years off Denis, who regained his babyface that night.  All fifteen guys had participated in the challenge, and now, that the trip was coming to an end, we finally ceased to look creepy and had an air of decency for once.
Denis

Denis and his handlebars

 

the molestache club

the molestache club

  • the roast – after our ceremonial shaving, we returned to the host site where we engaged in the widely anticipated Leader Roast.  Trey hit it off with hilarious light-hearted jokes about all of our fearless leaders.  They each got the recognition they deserved for their finest (and most “eccentric”) qualities.  Too many inside jokes to share…or understand

 

fyi, the next post will be dedicated solely to Santa Barbara…so get syked!