2016-07-27 Habitat for Humanity - McLevin Dedication, 2020-07 Humanitarian Work (Habitat Builds Toronto), @VAu 1-250-573, Adult, Age, Assignment, Beard, Bright, Child, Commissions, Content, Eyes Open, Face, Female, Frontal Face, Gender, Group, Key Ceremony, Key Presentation, Male, Person, Photography, Projects, Smile, Sunglasses

Habitat – Building Homes

Since 2016 I have volunteered my time as an event photographer for Habitat for Humanity, in the Greater Toronto Area. My work has covered corporate events, such as volunteer recognition ceremonies, special events, such as the Polar Bear Dip and the Annual Children’s Christmas Event, builds, and Dedication Ceremonies. This study looks at the Dedication Ceremonies.

The main focus of Habitat is to provide low-cost housing form families in need. Habitat has a process for determining who qualifies and those families that do, have specific responsibilities laid out. It is important to note that houses are not given to families for free.

The normal shot list for Dedication Ceremonies follows a similar pattern:

  • Arrival and Socialization
    This is when the guests, volunteers, and new home owners arrive and socialize with each other
  • Speaches
    This is when various people make speeches. This includes: Habitat Leadership and builders; local dignitaries; sponsors; the families receiving the new homes
  • Family Portraits
    This is where the families, usually standing in front of their new home, have a picture taken
  • Key Ceremony
    This is where the key to their new home is given to them, usually by one of the sponsors
  • Candids
    These are candid shots of people at the ceremony

The Actors:

The actors include:

  • Volunteers offer their time in several ways, primarily for builds where they participate in building the home
  • Sponsors provide funding, materials, and often time-off for employees to volunteer
  • Habitat provides the management, financing, organization, technical expertise and project management
  • Families are the receivers of the homes and they provide “sweat” equity
  • Political Leadership (municipal, provincial, and federal) provides support in various ways, including grants. Habitat provides a means for providing low-cost housing, which most governments are interested in supporting.


The premise is a good, safe, affordable house is foundational for raising a family.  It becomes a home, in contrast to poor housing, a slum, infested with various species of things. A good home avoids elevated stress levels, which in turn can reduce tolerances when a balanced attitude is appropriate, leading to elevated emotional responses, and worse yet, physical abuse, mental abuse, marriage breakups, etc. Studies in Adverse Childhood Experiences point to the association between childhood trauma and an increase in social and health problems as an adult.  

Habitat’s program offers a way for some families to break out of the cycle.


At present the material is organized around the families receiving the new homes and the Key Ceremony, when the keys to the new home are handed over.

Family Shots


Key Ceremony

Thought and Observations:

Blog Posts:

  • Habitat Assignment

    Habitat Assignment

    I recently completed an assignment with Habitat for Humanity, GTA, to photograph the handover of new homes to six families.   “A non-profit homebuilder, Habitat for Humanity GTA partners with low-income families, who cannot afford a conventional mortgage, to build and buy simple, decent quality, affordable homes through a no-interest, no-down payment mortgage. With monthly…

  • Key Ceremony

    Key Ceremony

    I recently attended a Key Ceremony hosted by Habitat for Humanity, where the sponsors [symbolically] hand over the key to a new home. Among the motivations for the program, is to enable families to own a home to create a positive environment for their children.  It’s all very touching.  As I watched the ceremony unfold,…

  • Habitat


    July offered a couple of opportunities to work again with Habitat for Humanity, photographing two Key Ceremonies. I strongly believe in the important and foundational role of a good home life for raising families.  The ACE Study suggests the association between childhood trauma and an increase in social and health problems as an adult.  The connection…