August 23, 2012It's never too early to teach children empathy, said Helen Santiz, a Habitat for Humanity house builder of more than 20 years.
She was watching over children staining key plaques, just one of the items children from three Grosse Pointe churches made. Instead of taking the crafts home, all items were being given to families moving into Habitat for Humanity houses.
Grosse Pointe Congregational Church, Grosse Pointe Memorial Church and Christ Church Grosse Pointe combined for the week-long vacation Bible school, Under Construc-tion. The Habitat for Humanity-written curriculum was aimed at children prekindergarten through fifth grade.
Helen Santiz adds the hooks to the key rack which will be given to new Habitat for Humanity house owners. photo by Renee Landuyt.
With 80 children, between 45 and 50 volunteers were kept on their toes relating Bible stories and providing musical and recreational opportunities. More importantly, the sessions offered a chance to put the children's budding faith into practice.
"It is meaningful and has lasting benefits. They will remember it all their lives," explained Sarah Wheeler, director of child and family ministries at Christ Church, this year's host church, about the lessons. "We have a very strong connection with Habitat."
Some 20 years ago, area churches pledged a continual flow of money and adult volunteers to Habitat for Humanity for its Detroit builds.
One of the original volunteers from Grosse Pointe Congregational Church, Santiz says she doesn't work as many hours as in the past because it saps her strength. Thus, it's time to introduce a new generation to the nonprofit, she said.
"Under Construction was written by Habitat for Humanity and the tools needed to build a house — a hammer, screwdriver, drill, saw, paint brush — are parallel tools needed to build God's kingdom on Earth, using the messages of caring, sharing, learning, worship and celebration," Wheeler said.
"It's a chance to put their faith into action," said Meg Wilson from Congregational Church. "Meeting other people's needs. They are sharing their gifts and resources. Those kids can see they are making a difference."
She further explains about how she illustrated the need for compassion and sharing to a handful of students during snack time.
"I put six (children) at a table and the rest sat on the floor. I asked them how those at the table felt and they said they felt awkward and sad because the others didn't have any food.
"They can make a difference and put their faith into action."
Instead of taking home the usual VBS crafts, children were creating gifts for both the home owners and home builders.
Wilson said, "One project was for the Habitat workers. They made bath salts because some days they (the workers) just want to go home and soak in a bath after a hard day."
Another project children created were bee traps.
During the summer months, yellow jackets like to nest in the stacks of fresh lumber on a building site. The children made bee traps by putting sugar-water in two-liter soda pop containers. The yellow jackets fly in and can't get out.
For Habitat families, children made mosaic stepping stones for gardens and wind chimes for porches. For inside the house, facial tissue box covers, key racks and no-sew blankets were created.
Nora Garrett with her children, Ariel, left, and Kobe, right, have lived in a Habitat for Humanity house for two years and say they are blessed to have the house in a neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other and her children can play safely in the backyard. photo by Renee Landuyt.
Habitat house owner Nora Garrett said she would welcome a key rack because she is always losing her keys.
"I've been living in a Habitat house for two years. It's truly a blessing to have a four-bedroom house," said Garrett, who lives in the Morningside community on Maryland Street in Detroit.
Wilson asked Garrett's children, Ariel and Kobe, if they ate together in the house and laughed in the house. With an affirmative answer, Wilson pointed out to her VBS group, "They are just like your families."
Alexandra Koerner did not know anything about Habitat before attending VBS and said, "It's about sharing, caring and learning about Habitat homes."
"This is the basic Christian principle, caring for others," Santiz concluded.