This Saturday, while most college students were still in bed, members of Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven were breaking a sweat on the New Haven Green.

Volunteers spent the greater part of Saturday building a gazebo as a gesture of goodwill for AIDS Interfaith, an organization that provides a support system for people affected with HIV and their families. The gazebo is part of a visibility project that aims to show the New Haven community that the group is working for the city, said Janet Testa, a member of the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven.

“The gazebo is a symbol for community building,” said David Watts DIV ’03, a Habitat for Humanity volunteer who assisted in coordinating the construction.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to eradicate poverty housing worldwide, and the New Haven chapter emphasizes this goal through community involvement.

“[All recipients of Habitat for Humanity’s aid] must put in equity by working on other people’s houses before they can work on their own,” Testa said.

She said this “sweat time” of 400 hours brings people together while giving them a sense of efficacy and self pride.

Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its international “Building on Faith Week,” an event every fall where over 2,000 chapters of the group focus on people’s needs for adequate housing.

Sue Sigler-Popkin, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven, said the organization makes an effort to take current housing needs into account.

“[Habitat] is not a handout, it is a hand up,” Sigler-Popkin said.

She added that Habitat for Humanity provides homeowners with zero-percent interest home loans at below building cost.

The goal this year for the New Haven group is to build six homes, focusing on the Hill and Newhallville sections of New Haven. Each house costs over $100,000 to build, she said.

With more than 400 families on the waiting list for homes, the organization relies heavily on fund-raisers such as the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge. The Challenge, a bike trip that takes place every spring, usually involves two groups led by Yale students, one biking from New Haven to Seattle and the other biking from New Haven to San Francisco.

Sigler-Popkin said Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven receives a lot of support from Yale students.

“Here we can do something — if you’ll forgive the pun — that is concrete,” Sigler-Popkin said. “We are really helping families.”

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