By Thandiwe Konguavi 
Staff Writer

Over a kosher lunch, volunteers of diverse faiths take a well-needed break from a common goal   climbing ladders, painting, and dry walling for Habitat for Humanity and bridging the gap between religions.

“We all believe in being there for those with needs so we’re building walls to come together, to bridge,” said Rabbanit Batya Friedman, co-pastor at Beth Israel Synagogue.

“We’re giving hope because there’s so much tragedy and hate out there. It doesn’t matter what you call the Creator, we’re all coming together to make him or her happy.”

On April 20, 25 Muslim and Jewish volunteers worked together at the Carter Place project, a 58-unit multi-storey development, in the Laurel neighbourhood of southeast Edmonton.

“Every religion shares basic tenets,” said Sumaira Farooq, volunteer co-ordinator for the Islamic Family and Social Services Association. “Islam, my faith, is a way of life. It tells us to give so much and keep giving so that your left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is giving, never expecting anything in return.”

Friedman is the coordinator of the Capital Region Interfaith Housing Initiative which partners with Habitat for Humanity to provide volunteers and lunches for its Interfaith Build project. Its goal is to provide 500 volunteers and 45 lunches over nine weeks. So far, 220 volunteers have participated.

On May 10, eight volunteers from the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton will be helping to build Carter Place.

The Interfaith Build project is about neighbours helping each other, says Alfred Nikolai, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Edmonton.

“This is a really important thing for our organization. We build homes for every faith and it’s really part of who we are,” Nikolai said.  “We’re going to have 1,000 people on this site pounding nails and painting walls and helping 58 families enjoy all the rewards and the dreams that come with home ownership.

“I think everybody across the country realizes that Edmonton has the spirit where we help each other and when we ask for volunteers, they come.”

Carter Place, named after former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, is part of Habitat’s initiative to build 150 homes across the country to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday in July. On July 9, President Carter and his wife Rosalynn – longtime Habitat for Humanity volunteers   will be in Edmonton to help with construction.

Half of these homes will be built in the greater Edmonton area, including the 58 Carter Place units, 16 in Fort Saskatchewan, and one more yet to be determined.

The families receiving Habitat for Humanity homes are required to put in 500 hours of sweat equity as a down payment on their home, and pay the full price of the home back to Habitat for Humanity at an interest-free mortgage of no more than 25 per cent of their monthly income.

For more information on Habitat for Humanity visit: www.hfh.org