The Gift of Shelter

This blog was written by CASE Fellow Beth Bafford.  She was joined on the trip by CASE Fellow (and frequent CASE blogger) Dan Baum, CASE Scholar Meredith Driscoll, and other CASE enthusiasts. 

Over winter break, I had the great honor and opportunity to travel to Zambia as part of a Habitat Global Village team with 8 other incredible Fuquans.  It was an indescribable experience in many ways, but as I reflect on what I learned, one clear idea continues to surface – the amazing (and mutual) gift that comes from building a home.

The gifts we were able to give to Tunta and Annie – the two homeowners with whom we built – are important, but are more obvious, particularly for those who have worked with Habitat before.  With the finished homes we left behind, we were able to give them three main things:

(1) the safety and security of a sturdy structure, freeing them from fears of collapse and decay that plague most in their village,
(2) the hope of a better tomorrow – that with the foundation of their new home, the next 10 years will be better than the last, and
(3) a new, loving community that Habitat Global Village Zambia creates for all its new homeowners – new friends and a strong support system that they may not have had before.

But what may not be as obvious are the gifts they gave to us.

They gave us the opportunity to work alongside the homeowners, which shed light on their lives, their situations, and their determination in a way that we could never have discovered by simply meeting and speaking with them.  Tunta, a man barely 5’3” and 100 pounds soaking wet (in yellow in the photo), worked harder and stronger than men three times his size – a grit only seen by a man building his own future.

Secondly, they gave us the ability to live naturally among the other families in the village, providing us with a small glimpse into their daily lives.  We cooked alongside the amazing women (even though we always slowed them down), we played games and sang songs with their children, whose energy was contagious, and we lived as they do – in one of the finished Habitat homes.  In two weeks, it is hard to “put yourself in someone else’s shoes” but we were so lucky that we got the chance to try.

Lastly, they gave us a connection to their community that will last a lifetime.  Their smiles, laughter, music, resolve, grace, and character will stay with all of us for decades to come.  As we make decisions about our own lives and future, we will think of the ways they live, the values they hold, and the strength they bring to each new day.

These gifts, for us, are priceless.

For more stories and pictures from our trip, you can check out our blog at