Celebrating the Gift of Giving: the Habitat for Humanity Home Dedication Ceremony

A volunteer gives a tearful homeowner a reassuring hug at the start of his speech.  Habitat for Humanity International Home Dedication Ceremony in San Patong, Chiang Mai, Thailand.  November 2013.

A volunteer gives a tearful homeowner a reassuring hug at the start of his speech.
Habitat for Humanity International Home Dedication Ceremony. Chiang Mai, Thailand

The official acknowledgement of both endings and beginnings, a Habitat Home Dedication Ceremony is my favorite event.  

It’s the chance for the volunteers to say farewell, and the moment to commemorate the start of a new life for the homeowners. Most importantly, it’s a celebration of gratitude. And not just for the homeowners.

The Home Dedication ceremony gives volunteers a chance to realize the gifts we receive as a result of giving

Following the dedication ceremony for our house in Chiang Mai, one of my teammates admitted that he’d joined solely for the adventure.  He was almost in shock.  He hadn’t expected the bond that was forged after working side-by-side each day with the family.  He hadn’t expected the people to be so awesome.

And he hadn’t expected to fight back tears on our last day.

At the start of the ceremony, the father stood frozen with his wife and son, so overwhelmed with emotion he could barely hold back the tears.  Tears of gratitude for our help, and tears of sadness that this group of strangers who’d become as dear as family, filling their lives with the energy, laughter, and camaraderie, would soon be leaving.

We all stood there mirroring the emotions so openly displayed on his face. There was sniffling in the crowd along with comedic suggestions that the widely used Tiger Balm was to blame.

Helping to realize a dream

Often, the ceremony is a symbolic gesture at the end of a volunteer project due to the extra work needed to finish the home.  This was true for our house in Chiang Mai.  After the ceremony, several of us made our final walk through the nearly finished building, standing in the future living room,  turning around in the soon-to-be master bedroom, and tracing our names etched in the foundation for the future kitchen.  We reminisced over the plot of dirt that we started with, and beamed at the walls that now rose up to the high two-story ceiling.


House at end of our build. Walls and foundation complete, windows and doors frame, septic tank installed.


Our homeowners had waited two years for this, and we knew we’d played a major role in helping them realize their dreams.

As a Habitat for Humanity volunteer, I honestly believe I get back more than I give.  And I feel this sentiment is shared among the volunteers who donate their time, money, and energy to build a Habitat home for a family.

We travel great distances, live in unfamiliar conditions – often with people we’ve never met, deal with sometimes frustrating language and cultural barriers, and just plain work hard.  In addition, either through our own funding or with donations, we pay monetarily for this experience.

However, I believe that what we get in return are the riches that money can’t buy:

  • Meaningful work that benefits the lives of others for many, many years
  • The ability to see the fruits of our labor each day
  • The personal growth from stretching ourselves to do our best physically, psychologically, and emotionally
  • An increased awareness of other ways of speaking, eating, thinking, and living
  • The chance to work on a team with good-hearted, compassionate people
  • Renewed gratitude for all that we have

In general, volunteers feel honored to help others realize their dreams, and amazed at the bonds so quickly formed by the experience. With each house, our worlds expand with new family and friends around the globe.  Ultimately, we add more love, satisfaction and meaning to our lives from these experiences, making what we receive in return truly priceless.


Categories: Volunteer


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