"Here to Serve"

The Heart behind Habitat SA


“We are here to Serve”

Habitat for Humanity SA’s Volunteer Engagement Manager, Lea, recalls a recent Global Village trip that she hosted in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The two weeks spent in fellowship with the community and US volunteers have left her with a heart full of memories and a reminder of the brevity of God’s calling and belief in her purpose at Habitat for Humanity SA.  


My take on my 2 weeks in KZN – Lea Schafer, Habitat SA Volunteer Engagement Manager

Kwazulu Natal will subtly woo you and seek to capture your heart with its beguiling charm and irresistible beauty. Any attempts to resist her magnetic appeal of rolling green hills and snaking rivers will be futile. The longer I stared, the more I saw her unfolding heart and in that moment, in the blistering heat of poverty stricken Umgababa, my heart was touched and irrevocably changed.

In this community, I lost my heart and rediscovered my passion; my purpose and unquenchable desire for impact that will echo throughout eternity.  As one person, the immense challenge of changing the face of poverty can be daunting, but when you are backed by an international organisation, the task no longer seems insurmountable. It’s the one purpose that connects us, it’s the glue that binds.

When we are faced with the magnitude of incredible need, we can either succumb to despair or we can choose to commit to the cause for which Habitat for Humanity was started. I recommitted myself to this God-vision to bring together people to build homes, communities and hope after witnessing the dignity held by families who are trying to survive and recover from the harsh blows of poverty inflicted hardship.

Stories of HOPE marked my stay:


  1. En route to Amanzimtoti

Shezi, my transport driver inspired me with his account of his upbringing. One of 22 children, he left school at a very young age to find work to provide for his newly widowed mother and his younger siblings. He did not run away from his responsibilities. He faced them head-on. He sacrificed his dreams to help realise his siblings’ dreams. His account of his life set the tone for my stay and absolutely inspired me. It reminded me that there are still phenomenal people out there and that heroes are formed in the cauldron of adversity and hardship. Shezi chose to become the rock for his family. He was the epitome of joy and it seemed to ooze from his being. Without him his sister never would have become a teacher, his mother never would have had a place to call home and his brother never would have completed his studies and follow his dream of working in the transportation industry. Shezi’s sacrifice paved the way for a better future for his family.


  1. Maureen & Cecilia

I met the  most amazing Zulu ladies at my accommodation in Warner Beach. Maureen and Cecelia made me feel at home with their wonderful hospitality, engaging talks and the most delicious food. They took pride in their work and I saw their hearts of gold reflected in their faces. I will always carry their warm parting hugs with me wherever I go.


  1. Siyaboga

Siyabonga was the 3rd person that I met with such a humble, gentle heart, continuing in his pursuit of his dream. This 22-year old man could not finish his studies at the local college and only completed one year of graphic design due to a lack of funds. After interacting with Siya for about 10 minutes, Kim, the Global Village volunteer and I needed to leave but not before he thanked us for taking the time to engage with him. He was grateful that we spent time with him and could not stop thanking us. This really touched my heart. He did not want anything, he did not expect anything, he placed such value on our brief engagement. Our time to him was equivalent to a deposit of gold.  After relaying Siyabonga’s story to the rest of the volunteer group, they commissioned him to design a few limited edition t-shirts.  Siyabonga was delighted at this opportunity and grabbed it with both hands.

Whilst in pursuit of his dream, he works at McDonalds and sometimes assists a contact with design work. My hope and prayer is that Siya will walk and live his dream.  Where there is a dream, there is hope and there is opportunity even in the most desperate of situations.


  1. Our Two Homeowners

When I learnt that the husbands of both homeowners recently passed away I was very saddened knowing that they will not be able to finally see the dream of their long-awaited home being realised.  In spite of this, these strong women did not feel sorry for themselves, they were present during the process and although one was hospitalised due to ill health, the other spoke movingly about what the week meant to her and her family. We can’t imagine the struggles that others go through and it is even harder to grasp that in spite of these, the dignity with which community members face each and every day.

Busi, the daughter of our homeowner chatted to us every day with a huge smile on her face. She was so excited to see her home being built, that she also pitched in to help.


  1. Mam Ndlovu and Idinga Crèche

The volunteer group had the priviledge of meeting this wonderful lady who saw the need in the community for a safe haven for the children and started a crèche.  Her heart for children is bigger than her income and she tries to care for as many children as possible. Up to 20% of the children she cares for are unable to pay for their stay, however she refuses to let the children be left to their own devices because of a lack of funding. Her faith and belief in God takes her from one month through to the next. We were able to use the facility during our week in Umgababa and the children were an absolute delight and joy to the volunteers.


  1. The Day We Prayed.

During our morning huddle, our Crewleader, Qcobo shared that the one homeowner was rushed to hospital and fighting for her life due to a heart condition. It was a sombre moment and along with the volunteers, we formed a circle and prayed to the God who hears, asking that He would spare her life so that she can see her lifelong dream of a home with her own eyes. 

As I walked away, I felt a throbbing ache. My heart was saying something is wrong. I was standing in one of the most beautiful and scenic places, but poverty marred its beauty. If it was up to me I would heal everyone, eradicate poverty with one swipe of my magic wand……but it’s obviously not that easy.

As my heart cried in the face of this need, my spirit committed itself to doing more, to working harder towards the cause of a South Africa where everyone has a decent place to live. I did the only thing I know how, the same thing we did with the volunteers earlier that day, I lifted my eyes up and I prayed. I never felt more convicted and convinced of the need for Habitat for Humanity in South Africa at such a time as this. It is time to come together to fight against inadequate shelter and poverty and the myriad of effects caused as a result.

My heart ached, but my passion returned. There is a purpose greater than only I can achieve. Together, with my Habitat family we can make a difference. I have seen it, I have tasted it in the midst of a community at war with poverty.  The words of our team leader will always echo in my ears…“We are here to serve”.