Volunteers judge national writing contest: Meaning of Home


Volunteering has looked a lot different this past year. Organizations have found new, innovative ways to engage volunteers of all ages to help contribute toward their missions in virtual settings. One way Habitat for Humanity affiliates across Canada have been engaging volunteers in new ways is by opening up judging opportunities for their annual Meaning of Home contest sponsored by SAGEN.

The Meaning of Home is a national writing contest for grades 4, 5 and 6 students to submit a poem or essay explaining what home means to them. It’s an opportunity to help teach children and youth about the importance of safe, affordable housing. Each entry results in a $10 donation to a local Habitat and the winner in each grade gets to direct a $30,000 grant to a local Habitat build with nine runners-up (3 per grade) also getting to direct a $10,000 grant towards a local Habitat build of their choice. In 2020, the contest helped raise over $80,000 for Habitat builds in the GTA alone.

In 2021, 55 Habitat GTA volunteers put up their hand virtually to help judge the competition. It was an opportunity to engage volunteers who wanted to contribute but couldn’t come out to a build site or a ReStore due to COVID-19.

It was incredible to see the response we received from our volunteers and hear directly from them about how gratifying it was to participate as a volunteer judge.

In the words of our Meaning of Home volunteer judges:

“It was encouraging to see so many positive thoughts from people so young. It was a learning experience for me, to see what having a home meant to many of the young people… Several pointed out a house is not a home, and what it took to make a home. Some bright youngsters. It felt good to be a judge. I am a retired professional manager. I have reading and evaluative skills that have been pretty much unused since I retired. It felt good to use them to help this event.”

-Joe Caruso

“By selecting the subject of ‘home’ to write about, it creates an awareness about the significance of having a home, a shelter. This was conveyed in many of the submissions. Also the desire to help others was reflected in some of the submissions. It was interesting to read what young people think about having a home. I was happy to assist Habitat’s efforts to help others have a place to live. A home is a basic necessity of life and I hope to have other opportunities to help.”


“I thoroughly enjoyed the experience! The variety of descriptions of “home” from different age ranges was interesting as some obviously were experiencing real need of shelter and security versus others who were more focused on possessions.

I salute Habitat for arranging such an educational project for the students with great prizes for the winners. I would happily volunteer again if needed.”

-Marguerite Locke