Local Builders Helping to End Global Poverty
Home builders and subcontractors around the country are participating in Houses for HOPE, a program that is helping to fund small loans for underprivileged people in difficult parts of the world like Afghanistan, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
HOPE International follows the philosophy of 2006 Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad Yunus, who has pioneered the concept of “microfinance” as a force to eliminate poverty in developing countries.
The program provides modest loans of as little as $50 to help private entrepreneurs grow their small businesses and attain financial self-sufficiency in the community. The loans are paid back at a low interest rate and the funds are then recycled into new loans that eventually benefit the local economy on a self-sustaining basis.
The non-profit HOPE International was founded in 1997 by Lancaster County, Pa. builder Jeff Rutt, president of award-winning Keystone Custom Homes, who was working at the time to provide economic opportunity for individual residents of Ukraine.
Inspired by a church gospel mission to the region in 1994, Rutt started pulling together money to send to the former Soviet Republic. However, realizing that his support was only a short-term solution, he soon founded HOPE International, a micro-credit initiative that would provide ongoing access to capital.
“We needed a way to help them help themselves in the long term so they weren’t so dependent on us,” he said.
Houses for HOPE partners with a home builder to build a house and invites trade partners — including subcontractors, suppliers and consultants — to donate or discount labor, materials and services. After the home is sold, non-donated costs are paid and 100% of the remaining proceeds go to the organization’s programs overseas.
Mama Henriette, a typical recipient of a HOPE loan, was able to use $45 to turn around her business selling salted fish in an open market in the Congo. Before receiving the loan, the mother of four was facing a bleak future after her money and the meager savings she had been building for years were lost in a robbery. With the capital from HOPE, her situation was changed radically. She was able to begin selling shikwang, a staple food in the country, which increased her profits to $15 a week — five times what she had been earning previously.
Ninety-nine percent of the HOPE loans are repaid, and the investment is leveraged to provide increasing numbers of loans for families in the area.
Builders who have participated in Houses for HOPE report that working together on the project produces a special bond with their trade partners and enhances the corporate culture of their company.
“The best reward for me personally was a stronger relationship with my trade partners that resulted from a recent $1 million Houses for HOPE project,” said Tony Spano, vice president of construction and land development for Bigelow Homes in Chicago. “We had never experienced the type of friendship we now have before participating in this project together.”
For information on how to become involved with Houses for HOPE, click here to be linked to HOPE International's web site (hopeinternational.org); or send an e-mail.
HOPE International’s headquarters in Lancaster, Pa. can be reached at 717-464-3220; or call Michael Lennon, executive director, at the West Coast office in Irvine, Calif. at 714-812-9390.