Richard Norman, 72, had long wanted to own a home, and move to a safer neighborhood. Unfortunately, he had been unable to get a loan from the bank. He wasn’t sure if his dream of homeownership would ever become a reality.
One day while volunteering for Habitat for Humanity where his brother worked, Richard came to know homeowners who had participated in the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development’s Mutual Self-Help Housing program. Curious and inspired, Richard volunteered to assist program participants in building their homes.
Richard learned that Mutual Self-Help Housing program participants provide most of the construction labor for their new houses which allows USDA to directly provide them with affordable, no down payment, low interest loans to buy the homes they helped build.
This was it! Richard saw the perfect opportunity to finally own his own home. He applied, and two years later, he moved into a house that he and his neighbors had built with their own hands.
“This program changed my life because it’s about helping those around you,” said Richard. “The most rewarding thing is working with the people on the job site because everyone comes together as one with unity and a sense of family.”
The program isn’t a cakewalk. Participants must contribute 30 labor hours per week, and houses take months to build. However, Richard will tell you, when finally handed the keys to a new home, a sense of everlasting pride accompanies the words “I did it.” On top of that participants pitch in their blood, sweat and tears to build each other’s homes, turning strangers into a close-knit community.
“I want to let everyone know that you will come out smiling in the end,” said Richard. “Happiness and joy are now mine because [the Mutual Self-Help Program] is ‘da bomb!”