A few years back in college a few friends were sipping coffee at a coffee shop and the question arose as to "what separated us from the apes". We joked for a while that it was 3 continents, 2 vast oceans, hand lotion, the barber, Ann Darrow (from King Kong), leotards... Finally, the caffeine kicked in and somebody mentioned volunteerism. "Huh?" "Yeah, Apes don't volunteer to help others but people do. We don't live our lives in pursuit of genetic responses that are only conditioned to find food, mate --- okay, maybe we do all that too--- but we have something inside us that either causes us to help others or to help give tools to those that help others". He was right.
I have been blessed to be a volunteer leader with Habitat for Humanity. Normally (we had a baby), on this very week that includes Valentines day, my wife and I would be taking 20 people from scattered parts of the globe to Africa to build houses in some of the shanti villages. A "shanti" is a home made of tin, car doors, glass pieces -- basically anything that can be found for free. Usually way too many people live in these homes. There is generally only one room -- the kitchen and the bedroom (one and the same). There is sometimes an outhouse out back or shared nearby. These shanti homes are set up in such a way that makes rape a bit more likely, perhaps even as a form of intimidation in gaining "control" of a household. This could be a large factor for the contribution of AIDS.
Who would have thought that Habitat for Humanity could help with issues like rape and AIDS? In Africa, they do so much more. In order to become qualified for a house, residents learn how to budget, how to work efficiently in order to keep a job, how to say "no" to outsiders who want to force themselves into a family's home. If they can make it through this program, which they can, then they are on there way to getting a house and keeping it.
Last year we built a home in a small village called Masiphumalele which means "We Will Succeed" in Xhosa. The Government has historically referred to it as Site 5. To see more photos, other than the ones on this page, that I took in Africa, visit this link. The people in 'Masi' were wonderful and while it was a few hours drive from the site we built at the previous year, we were welcomed by some of the same faces as before who were there leading us as we built. Everyone within the village was kind to us and would have given us the clothes off their back if we would let them. Amazing. We were supposed to be the ones giving, but it was really the other way around.
We took this year off from traveling due to not being able to part yet with our 14 month old. She's too adorable. But, in honor of Valentines Day and the AIDS crisis that affects many right here in Nashville, we are partnering with V's Boutique to benefit Nashville CARES who is working with families and individuals who feel those effects locally. Nashville CARES, like Habitat deals with mending hearts and minds, not through housing, but through medical and social services. Currently 2,000 people are being helped with the aid of Nashville CARES.
So, this Valentines Day we celebrate Nashville CARES by trying to raise a little money and awareness. Here's how:
For $50.00, Cupid will carpet your driveway/sidewalk with a plush row of rose petals on Valentines Day to set the mood for love or friendship.
For $20.00, Cupid will bring a cute bag of rose petals to your door to use as you like. Hint: A nice warm bath with fresh rose petals is recommended. However, a bed lined with petals or a table top for a romantic meal is good, too.
For either of these services, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday night -- 8pm.
All proceeds benefit Nashville Cares (make your check out to them directly) or donate online to their site.