First-ever Hindu Build has special meaning for Everyone

Twenty-six-year old Shay Moton is at a loss for words when she speaks about being one of Atlanta Habitat’s newest homebuyers.  “I am so excited!” Shay says with a bright smile. “I don’t know what to say. To have this kind of help from volunteers. It is like a gift.”

A gift or “upahar” in Hindu is exactly what the dozens of volunteers from five Hindu Temples and a faith association across Atlanta wanted it to be according to Seshu Sarma, MD, the community coordinator for Hindu Temple of Atlanta.  

“We wanted to do something on a larger scale in our own backyard. This is the first time we came together to sponsor one house, to do one thing all together,” says Sarma, who contacted fellow temples across Atlanta to partner as an Atlanta Habitat house sponsor. “We didn’t have any funding in the beginning; but once I reached out to the other temples in Atlanta, they all gave their immediate support as a sponsor and volunteer.”

The temples include Hanuman Mandir of Atlanta, Hindu Temple of Atlanta, North American Shirdi Sai Temple of Atlanta, Sanatan Mandir, and Shree Shakti Mandir of Atlanta. Dr. Sarma adds that they will return next year to build a second house with a new homebuyer.

Over a course of eight Saturdays this summer, volunteers framed walls, put up a roof, installed windows and siding, built a deck, and much more alongside Shay for her three-bedroom house in the Lakewood Heights community. 

This was a groundbreaking moment for the first-time homebuyer and Atlanta Habitat. While members from various Hindu temples in Atlanta have joined in Atlanta Habitat’s Interfaith builds, this is the first time Atlanta Habitat has had an all Hindu faith full-house sponsor.  “This says a lot about who we are as a community in Atlanta, especially during this troubled climate across our nation,” says Atlanta Habitat President/CEO Lisa Y. Gordon. “We are honored by their support because it touches deeply into Habitat for Humanity’s faith-based roots to offer decent shelter for those in need, regardless of religious faith.”

For Shay and her young daughter at dedication day on a warm Saturday in August 2017, it was the beginning of many firsts in their lives. “At first I didn’t believe I could do it, but I did,” she says. “I know I can do even more things that I want to do now! And, Atlanta Habitat will be there to help with its resources that empower families like Shay to realize other dreams with their families.