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Speech

Habitat for Humanity

Issue date: 
Wednesday, 16 March 2016
Speaker: 
Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae, GNZM, QSO

Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.  Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana ki Te Whanganui-a-Tara.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington 

I specifically acknowledge: Craig McFarlane, Chairman of the Habitat for Humanity Board and the trustees present; and Claire Szabo, CEO of Habitat for Humanity - tēnā koutou katoa.

I am pleased to welcome you all to Government House this evening, to acknowledge and celebrate Habitat for Humanity.

Over the past four and a half years, I have met hundreds of people who have worked to make the world a better place.  They’ve given their time, their effort and their resources to do things that have helped improve the lives of others and benefitted their communities.

The people who support Habitat for Humanity have been among those big-hearted people.  My first experience with Habitat for Humanity was when John Gallagher approached me when I was with the New Zealand Defence Force.  The second time was in Christchurch, more about that later.

There is a Māori proverb that goes “He tāonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata - Goodwill towards others is a precious treasure”. 

Functions like this dinner are an important way of recognising for-good organisations like Habitat for Humanity and the people who support them. 

Habitat reaches people and changes lives all over the world.  However, it’s the work it does in New Zealand that directly affects our communities.  It is a special organisation that does a lot of good.

What we are acknowledging tonight is Habitat for Humanity’s charitable work, and how it gives effect to a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.  What we are celebrating tonight are the people – volunteers mainly – who help build new homes, who help repair or renovate homes, and who help make affordable housing accessible.

New Zealand offers an enviable lifestyle for many of its citizens, and often features in lists of the most liveable countries in the world.  We enjoy high standards of education and medical care; we have a pristine environment and we have communities that are great places to live, to bring up our families and to prosper.

Unfortunately that is not everyone’s reality.  Housing, in particular, presents a challenge for many people.  This is particularly so for people on low incomes.

By giving people the opportunity to work towards owning their own home or by helping them to repair their existing home, Habitat for Humanity makes a difference in people’s lives.  Habitat’s effort is more than an act of charity – it is an investment in our communities, an investment in people.  The flow-on effects of having a home - on physical and mental health, on improved outcomes for children and on stronger family units - are heartening. 

The partnership concept of “sweat equity” gives people the opportunity to have “skin in the game”.  Most people want a hand-up, not a hand out.  Investing 500 hours of time and labour in their home adds to the sense of ownership and achievement for Habitat for Humanity home owners. 

My second experience with Habitat for Humanity, in Christchurch, was when I visited a building project in 2013.  As many of you would know, Habitat has been particularly active there since the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. 

I was delighted to see the Habitat volunteer’s work first hand, and to speak with a home owner.  Actually “see” is not the right word.  It was a bit more hands on than that.  I helped to put a ceiling up. 

Before I went down to Christchurch, my wife expressed her concern when she heard I might be wielding electric hand tools.  Suffice it for me to say that I managed to get a ceiling panel up without doing any damage to myself, to anyone else or to the house.  And by all accounts the ceiling is still in place!
 
Joking aside, it was great to see how Habitat for Humanity operates and to meet some of the volunteers.  I was also interested to hear of the relationships Habitat has with companies, which provide goods and services - paint, heat pumps, legal advice and architectural help – the things that get work going in a quick and cost-effective way.

I would like to finish with this passage from Romans 12:8.  “If you give charity, give it generously; if you are a leader, lead with enthusiasm; if you help others in distress, do it cheerfully”. 

Tonight, we acknowledge, thank and celebrate Habitat for Humanity for giving generously, for leading enthusiastically and for enabling people to share goodwill in our communities cheerfully.  With the auction happening later, I hope you all will be equally generous, enthusiastic and cheerful!  Your goodwill can be a precious treasure others.  Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 16 March 2016

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