Calling all young writers: Habitat for Humanity’s national writing contest is now open!

What does home mean to you? That’s what grade four, five and six students are tasked with answering in Habitat for Humanity’s annual Meaning of Home writing contest. Students are asked to write a poem or essay explaining what home means to them, whether it be a loving atmosphere, a safe haven to be themselves, or a place to learn and grow.

Meaning of Home aims to encourage independent and critical thinking, promote creative writing, and boost awareness around social issues. Generously sponsored by Genworth Canada, every entry received in the area will generate $10 for Habitat Hamilton. On top of that, a team of judges will pick one grand prize winner per grade, who will get to donate $25,000 to the Habitat build of their choice. Three runners-up per grade will also be chosen, who will be able to direct a $5,000 donation to the build of their choice. All winners, grand prize or runner-up, will each receive an electronic tablet and a pizza party for their class!

Since 2007, more than 50,000 students have entered poems and essays into Meaning of Home, generating over $1 million for Habitat’s across Canada. Our goal here at Habitat Hamilton is to provide families with strength, stability and self-reliance through homeownership, something we couldn’t achieve without the support and generosity of our community.

Did you know one in seven Canadian households don’t have a safe, decent and affordable place to call home? The price of living is high, meaning hardworking families are sometimes forced to choose between food and rent every month. Habitat Hamilton works hard to change that statistic, helping Canadians gain self reliance through affordable homeownership.

How do we do this? Families who meet the requirements to be a partner purchase their home with no down payment and an interest free geared-to-income mortgage, putting in at least 500 hours of volunteer time in lieu of a traditional mortgage. We build homes at the lowest cost possible, thanks to our generous sponsors and donors who provide monetary donations as well as donations of product and labour.

Meaning of Home is free to enter, however if your child submits an original piece and you would like to match Genworth’s $10 donation to Habitat Hamilton, you can easily do so by visiting, from now until February 18th. All donations will go back to Habitat Hamilton to support our many upcoming home builds this year.

For teachers, incorporating Meaning of Home into the classroom is very simple. It’s a unique way to involve students in the creative writing process, while meeting curriculum criteria in language arts. Some requirements that can be addressed through the assignment include:

  • Producing an original piece of work that encourages independent critical thought
  • Organizing ideas and writing for an intended purpose or audience
  • Writing to express thinking and communicate personal opinions
  • Developing proper grammar, spelling and punctuation
  • Fostering proofreading, editing and revision skills

Habitat has already created some lesson plan ideas for you to incorporate into your classroom or to build from. Some ideas include “what’s in my home”, where students can work in groups to create a collage of photos that represent items found in their household, then present to the class to discuss key elements of their work. Another example is “house vs home”, where students can brainstorm the difference between the two. Teachers can check out the toolkit on for more lesson plan details, a newsletter to send home with students, and a word search for some fun in the classroom.

Once students have entered their poems or essays, how can they win? Well, Habitat has a team of judges who will be evaluating based on the level of originality, creativity, significance and relevance. The judging phase takes place between February and March, and in mid-April the winners will be announced!

A grade four student from Winnipeg, Manitoba was last year’s Meaning of Home grand prize winner. An excerpt from Ryan’s winning poem:

A home is a place where I am warm,
a place of comfort during a storm.

When I think of the thought of not having a home,
I begin to cry and in sadness I roam.

So every night before I sleep,
I thank God for my home which is mine to keep.

And, maybe with luck this poem has grown
into something that will help a child have a home.

Entries will be accepted until February 18th, so start brainstorming and put that pen to paper!

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