Former President Jimmy Carter’s 32-year passion project to build homes

Updated 10:44 AM EDT, Tue September 20, 2016
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Story highlights

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter have built homes for more than 30 years

The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project started in 1984

Habitat for Humanity builds homes in 70 countries

(CNN) —  

Former President Jimmy Carter is almost 92 years old, but he still swings a mighty hammer.

On a hot August day in Memphis, Carter, his wife Rosalynn and a group of volunteers were hard at work, building homes with Habitat for Humanity.

A year earlier, the elder statesman announced that he had brain cancer. There was surgery, radiation and drugs. Now he’s in remission and back to work.

For 32 years, the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project has helped build more than 4,000 homes.

“This has been the main thing we do outside of Carter Center and outside of my political jobs,” the former president explained during a break in construction. “It’s a practical way to put my religious beliefs into practice over the years. We talk about poor people in need and this is the best way I know to close that gap between rich people and the people who’ve never had a decent place to live.”

Habitat For Humanity is a Christian charity that has built more than 1 million homes in over 70 countries with the help of thousands of volunteers. The most famous two are Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

“I’m not sure people would have ever heard of Habitat had the Carters not gotten involved,” said Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford. “I think they are the perfect example of how they put their faith into action.”

And their actions go far beyond photo ops. New volunteers quickly learn that it is hard to keep pace with the former first couple.

“I mean, this guy doesn’t stop and neither does she,” said one volunteer at the Memphis site. “They lead by example and they really do work.”

Carter likes the fact that the future owners of the homes they build are there working with him.

“The idea of volunteerism, when we actually do some work side-by-side with people in need, has been put in the forefront of people’s consciousness through Habitat,” the former president said. “And that’s a good thing.”