Ally Antis, daughter of Antis Roofing and Waterproofing owner Charles Antis, is set to graduate high school in late spring. Typical of her age group, Ally spent a lot of time researching senior trip ideas. But, unlike many other kids stepping into the great big world, she took a different approach. For Ally, this journey will look a lot different from the usual European package tour or trek to New Zealand. While many privileged American teens will be staying in hipster hostels and dressing up to take in the Paris nightlife, Ally will be busy mixing concrete, hauling bricks, and getting to know impoverished locals on a Habitat for Humanity build in Macedonia. Reflecting on the reasons for her choice, Ally said, “I am fortunate enough to grow up in a financially supportive family, and because of that, I want to give back to the world.”
Ally spent the majority of her childhood in Mission Viejo, California, a city known for its manicured, tree-lined streets, its recent rating as the second-safest city in the U.S. by Morgan Quitno, and a median income 85 percent higher than the national average. She attends Capistrano Valley High, a top-notch school with a Great Schools rating of 8, where only 25 percent of students participate in the free and reduced-price lunch program. Growing up in this context could render a person oblivious to the pervasiveness of poverty in the rest of the world. However, Ally thanks her dad for his commitment to making sure she and her brother are aware of—and sensitive to—the needs of less fortunate people. “In the past, I did a Habitat build in Mongolia with my dad, Charles Antis, and my brother, Erek.” The Mongolia Habitat build is only one among many of which Ally and her family have taken part. She said, “My dad always finds ways to partner with Habitat. This year, he was named the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s Volunteer of the Year. His work with them has been inspirational to me.”
Ally’s research on senior trip ideas led her to the well-thought-out decision to join Habitat in Macedonia. She hopes her involvement will inspire her peers—some of whom might be future leaders in America—to see the importance of tackling poverty worldwide. Macedonia suffers from vast unemployment due to the breakdown of the command economy, the absence of financial and technical services needed to spur agricultural improvements, and its limited access to local and world agricultural product markets. Macedonia’s poorest citizens are its small-scale farmers, pensioners, and the rural unemployed. Crop and livestock production are the mainstay for most rural households, at times allowing them to manage meager incomes at the subsistence level. But the rural unemployed are at even greater risk because, unlike the farmers, they are unable to produce any of their own food and have no access to surplus production.
According to Habitat for Humanity Macedonia, “Living conditions for the rural poor are especially bad. The primary need is access to water and proper sewerage. Housing conditions are particularly grave for Roma households. About 320,000 people, almost 15 percent of Macedonia’s population, live in illegally constructed buildings. The capital city, Skopje, hosts squatter settlements of about 120,000. It has the largest Roma community in Europe, which lives in a ghetto-like environment.”
Habitat’s projects in Macedonia include home improvement and Roma housing funds, water supply and sanitation for the underserved, house building, and efficiency repairs for existing homes.
How You Can Help
Ally plans to fit as many toothbrushes and floss as possible in her suitcase to help meet the need for dental health in Macedonia while she’s there. Anyone interested in helping can mail or drop donations by Antis’ office location.
Like Ally, young people (and any people!) who give their time to Habitat for Humanity are actively supporting improved quality of life, one project at a time. In the long run, these efforts combine and develop into a powerful collective spirit of hope in the served communities—and hope is the foundation of liberation from poverty. It’s Ally’s hope that as seniors all over America are looking for senior trip ideas in the coming months, they might consider the opportunity to use those resources to build a better world.