A Life Changing Journey with CEO Tiana Joyner

July 12, 2023

Durham Habitat CEO Tiana Joyner recently traveled to the Dominican Republic to join leaders from Habitat for Humanity affiliate chapters around the world for a week of networking, sharing, and building.

She and the other CEOs and Executive Directors discussed their affiliate’s work and their unique communities, discussing challenges and solutions with one another. Tiana noted that despite the differences in location, the core challenges of housing affordability and accessibility are universal. This summit was a valuable opportunity for Tiana to learn many new perspectives and ideas. She looks forward to applying some of the innovative strategies she learned to Durham Habitat’s work.   

The group also spent time building with Habitat Dominicana. Due to the local conditions, this affiliate’s work focuses more on helping families complete or repair existing homes and less on building new homes. They also provide services around disaster preparedness due to hurricane prevalence, helping families assess and mitigate risks, and build survival kits.

Tiana worked on a home in partnership with the 100,000 Floor to Play On initiative. She and her group laid a concrete floor to replace the home’s existing dirt floor, which is a common feature in the area. Replacing dirt floors with concrete results in health benefits for families as dirt floors can be a breeding ground for parasites, bacteria, and insects that cause health issues. Children are most vulnerable to these issues when crawling, playing, and walking on the ground.

The family Tiana served had struggled after several members were injured in a moped accident. Like many others, their home was self-built and not fully complete. Assistance from Habitat Dominicana will go a long way towards making their home safer and healthier. “The day we did the concrete floor it was hot, it was hard labor, but it never felt like too much because the family was there,” she said.

Tiana also stated, “Housing is a social determinant of health. We know that safe housing promotes well-being. We also know that living in unsafe or unsuitable housing conditions contributes to health inequities. For over 20 years I have worked in affordable housing and my feelings never change when I see someone living in unsafe housing. Being able to help a family living in a home with dirt floors not only seeing them happy to have new concrete floors but also knowing the positive impact it will have on the family’s health and wellbeing.”

This trip made a big impact on Tiana that will carry into her work with Durham Habitat going forward. “This experience was truly life changing for me. While I wanted to do so much more in addressing the needs of the family, they were so very thankful. Their gratitude reminded me that Ephesians 5:20 tells us ‘Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’,” she said. She looks forward to doing it again and bringing more of the Durham Habitat team and our partners.