Americus, Ga.--In a bold move to promote the cause of affordable housing,Habitat for Humanity International has opened a six-acre attraction here that will showcase the group's efforts to house people in nearly 90 countries.
Visitors at the unconventional "theme park" walk through a mock slum to get an idea of the conditions that some families live in. After making their way through the slum, they then get a look at about 15 diverse homes that the renowned organization has built in Africa, Asia and Central America. The Global Village & Discovery Center will eventually expand to about 35 houses, including those from poor European and South American regions.
"Visitors will go away with more knowledge about the situation of shelter around the world and be aware that they can be part of the solution," said Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity.
In addition to gaining greater understanding, Fuller hopes that guests will be inspired to help support the organization's efforts by making a donation or picking up a hammer to build homes in Africa, Asia or even their own hometowns. At the end of the tour, people can learn about volunteer opportunities.
With its network of affiliates, Habitat for Humanity and partner families have built more than 125,000 homes with no-profit, zero-interest mortgages. The organization is well recognized for its work in 1,671 cities across the United States, but many people do not know that it is an international organization that has built in 89 countries, Fuller said.
The houses on display at the Global Village are replicas of the varied homes that the organization's volunteers have built. There is a hurricane-resistant home from Haiti, a wood house on stilts from Papua New Guinea, and a pressed-earth brick home from Kenya.
Thousands of people are expected to visit each year. The organization's Americus-based headquarters already sees about 12,000 visitors a year without having a major attraction. The Global Village is also within 20 miles of former President Jimmy Carter's home and museum, the Andersonville National Monument and the National POW Museum. An excursion train will make a stop at the Global Village.
The idea for the attraction has grown over the years. A while back, Habitat for Humanity built a temporary village that featured a handful of homes that visitors were able to tour. "We thought if something like that inspires people, a more elaborate and extensive global village will really turn people on," Fuller said.
About $1 million had been spent on the project at the time of its official dedication in June. Plans, however, call for it to eventually be about a $5 million project, Fuller said. The attraction was funded separately from the organization's home-building mission through designated gifts and contributions.
Admission to the Global Village & Discovery Center is by suggested donation of $5 for adults, $3 for students 6 and older and $4 for seniors.
For more information about Habitat for Humanity International, visit www.habitat.org.