The Life a House Built The Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project

The Life A House Built premiered December 2008.

This documentary film tells the extraordinary story of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carters' 25-year involvement with Habitat for Humanity. Using the massive 2008 Blitz Build along the Gulf Coast as the centerpiece, the film celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project — from its humble origins in New York City to the global reach it has today. It is an inspiring story of how one man's inability to ignore the vast need he encountered has since brought thousands of strangers together from across the globe and changed the lives of thousands more

President Jimmy and RosalynnPresident Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter talk with volunteer at a Habitat for Humanity work site.
It was 1984 and Mr. Carter was on a trip to New York City, looking at a multi-family tenement. "There was this old lady — she was 65, maybe 70," Mr. Carter recalls. "She was living in the next building and there was no water, no heat, no electricity. And she was cooking her meal on a trash fire that she built between two bricks. I realized then how much Habitat could mean to a neighborhood like this. So I thought I might be able to help raise a few thousand dollars, sort of a spur of the moment thought."

He then did something that few world leaders would ever consider. President Carter personally spent seven days, as a carpentry expert, rebuilding the tenement. He stayed in the church dormitory with the rest of the volunteers — he on the top bunk and a secret service agent in the spot below. "I'm honorary chairman of many charities, but this is the only organization that I've lent my time and my labor to," Carter has said.

 Throughout the week, the Carters travel to several build sites and lend their strength and inspiration. Journeying along with them, we learn the personal stories of the men and women who are taking part in the building of others houses and in some cases the building of their own homes. Through their specific stories, the wider world of volunteerism and its impact on both the giver and receiver will be explored. Volunteers and homeowners alike reveal their hopes for the future as they envision the impact that this home will have on their lives.

Habitat Volunteers and HomeownersHabitat volunteers and homeowners stand in front of recently completed home in the Gulf Coast.
Viewers will discover that the Carter Project has built more than homes. It has created a community, thousands strong, of people who are connected by the work. It is an army of brothers and sisters whose bonds to one another span generations and geography. Some of today's volunteers are people who years earlier were the recipients of a Carter project home. Knowing that they themselves would not have a home without Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, these men and women have sworn to themselves that they'll pay it back by paying it forward to the next family.

 What began with a single mission — to ease the burden of some New York families living in poverty — has grown into a multinational movement that has provided homes for tens of thousands of people. The film explores the past and the future to show the profound impact of the Carter Work Project.

 The Carter's absolute dedication to a simple ideal has turned into a global avalanche of good works. From the 13,000-foot build in Lake Titicaca where Jimmy and Rosalynn observed the locals building their homes far above the tree line, to Northwest Nicaragua where they were able to take an area with an almost pure clay soil too poor for farming and turn it into bricks and roof tiles — a project so successful, the town was able to create a new industry and sell these high quality bricks to other communities — Carter Projects from all over the world, from Mexico and Korea to South Africa and India have been impacted by Carter and Habitat for Humanity. The magnitude of the entire project can be seen in a single expression — hope.

  • Every week, more than a million people are born in, or move to, cities in the developing world. As a result, the urban population of developing countries will double from 2 to 4 billion in the next 30 years.
  • By the year 2030, an additional 3 billion people — about 40 percent of the world's population — will need access to housing. This translates into a demand for 96,150 new affordable units every day and 4,000 every hour.
  • There is not a single county in the country where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford even a one-bedroom apartment at what HUD determines to be the Fair Market Rent.


The Life A House Built: The 25th Anniversary of The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project was produced by Time Inc. Studios.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Work Project, visit and

To learn more about Jimmy Carter and his quest to advance human rights and alleviate human suffering, visit the Carter Center Web site at



Funded by:

Square D

Produced by:

This Old House Ventures Inc.
Timeline Inc

© 2008 Time Inc. Studios. All Rights Reserved. Text by Jonah Weintraub of Time Inc. Studios. Photos courtesy of Habitat for Humanity.


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