One-fifth of the world’s population lives on less than $1 a day, according to the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, the percentage is double that. About 1.6 billion people around the world live in substandard housing and 100 million are homeless, the United Nations says. In the U.S. alone, the National Alliance to End Homelessness reports that as many as 3.5 million people experience homelessness during the year.
The numbers are mind-boggling and overwhelming. Unless you’re Bill Gates and your best friend is Warren Buffett, can one person make any difference at all? Does it make sense to even try to help?
The answer to that question comes in simple language from people such as Jose Luis Rincon. Once an impoverished construction worker in the city of San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, Rincon now has his own business making wheelbarrows thanks to a loan from HOPE International, a micro-finance organization started by Jeff Rutt of Keystone Custom Homes in Lancaster, Pa., that now works with 200,000 entrepreneurs in 13 countries.
“Before the loan, my life was destroyed,” Rincon says. “I didn’t have tools to work. I had no food, so I sold my tools for food. Maybe I wouldn’t be here right now.”
Then there’s Diane Cooper of Raleigh, N.C., whose family’s life changed forever when they moved out of a cramped apartment in a dangerous neighborhood and into a home of their own built in the 2006 Habitat for Humanity Home Builders Blitz, the largest single building event in the organization’s history.
“I just feel safer,” Cooper says. “My kids will go outside in the yard,” something she couldn’t let them do before because of fights and drugs.
The blitz, during which home builders and their trade partners completed 459 homes, was the result of the quiet leadership of Tom Gipson of Raleigh, N.C.–based Thomas Gipson Homes.
Both men took the home building activities they conduct every day and leveraged them for an impact that has literally spanned the globe.
Rutt and Gipson are extraordinary examples of the kind of leadership and generosity that the Hearthstone Builder Humanitarian Awards were created to recognize. Sponsored by Builder and Hearthstone, a national provider of financing for builders, the awards recognize individuals who model—and inspire—selflessness. Funds from this year’s awards will enable the winners to designate a total of $350,000 to further touch the lives of families here and abroad.