Habitat for Humanity: Building a better future

Habitat for Humanity builder Yukio Hirabayashi uses his skills to uplift vulnerable families

When a Habitat for Humanity building crew leaves a house, the real transformation has only just begun.

Under the community housing provider's Home Repair Programme, the building crew works to make homes safer and more liveable by repairing rotten flooring, installing new bathrooms or kitchens and improving ventilation to help prevent mould. Often, once the Habitat for Humanity crew has finished their work the family is motivated to continue making other improvements.

Builder Yukio Hirabayashi has seen it many times. He thinks it has something to do with shared energy - for example when a family finally has a functioning bathroom after years of making do, they are energised and inspired to carry out more work.

AMI is proud to partner with Habitat for Humanity, to help it achieve its goal of transforming the lives of 75,000 Kiwis over the next three years through warm, dry housing

Not long ago, Yukio and his crew were working on a home in "a really bad state" that required a lot of repair work due to water damage. The crew completed what was agreed, and were able to secure additional paint and carpeting for the family to use at some stage, when they were ready.

When Yukio visited the site just two weeks later he was amazed to see that the carpeting had been installed and the walls were all freshly painted.

"I was totally impressed by their work," says Yukio. "When I first met the family, they were kind of giving up on the house. But then, when I went back to see them, they were completely changed. They were so happy and they just wanted to continue improving the house. The momentum to keep going was really nice to see."

Yukio has a design and construction background and a heart for charity work. After the 2011 earthquake in his native Japan he worked with elderly people whose homes had been destroyed. They had gone from living in big farm houses with plots of land to being in small temporary dwellings with no outdoor space.

"My job was to help them. I would take them out and we would do farm work together and just have a chat. It was a great experience."

When Yukio returned to New Zealand after that (he has lived here off and on for 30 years) he wanted to find similarly meaningful work, and he did with Habitat for Humanity. "Using my skills to help somebody else is a total reward for me," he says. "It's a nice thing, a nice humble feeling."