Habitat Omaha Partner Family Profiles
Combining Old Traditions with New: David and Miriam's Story
Traditional decorations showcasing the family's Sudanese culture will grace David Mushwas and Mariam Yunis' home soon after they move in, keeping their heritage alive for their four children Ryada, Selama, Para, and Uriya.
They came to Omaha from the Blue Nile region of the Sudan six years ago and have been living for the past three years in a small, older home with heating problems and windows that don't close, meaning they had to worry about safety and the cold. They wanted better security and more space for their family, so when they heard about Habitat for Humanity of Omaha from some friends who had recently become Habitat Omaha homeowners, they applied and were accepted into the program in April 2012.
More space is only a small part of what they're gaining. They're looking forward to having a backyard with room to grill while the kids play, as well as the opportunity to entertain their families more often.
But most important of all will be the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are in a safe and comfortable environment, which will give the parents more valuable free time to work and go to school. They know children who feel that security are better able to cope with the demands of school and with this in mind, they are dreaming big and planning to send all four on to college as well as onto postgraduate and PhD programs.
Both David and Mariam enjoyed meeting volunteers and other Family Partners while completing their Sweat Equity. The skills they learn on site--framing, installing, drywall and painting--give them the ability to maintain their home. They especially look forward to working in the yard and firing up the grill, adding one of the great American pastimes to their family culture.
David and Miriam's home is being built in partnership with the Neighbors South Coalition.
Room to Grow--Thin Win and Ma Aye's Story
Thin Win and Ma Aye applied to become homeowners through Habitat for Humanity of Omaha's program because they wanted to raise their children in a better environment. Each weekend the owner comes into their apartment uninvited to ensure nothing is broken or damaged, and they must ask their friends to help make necessary repairs so they can avoid having to pay the landlord. With seven people sharing two bedrooms, the children are confined and reluctantly take turns sleeping on the living room floor.
Thin Win and Ma Aye became partners with Habitat Omaha in July of 2011, and began making an investment in their future as homeowners by working their Sweat Equity shifts. Ma Aye says that painting has been the task she most enjoys, and she will gladly re-paint the walls at her new house if her children happen to make them dirty. She also appreciates the friendly support she receives from the construction staff as she learns about the different phases a house goes through from start to finish.
The family is excited about planting a garden and flowers in their new yard, and cooking meals together in the kitchen. Thin Win and Ma Aye will feel more at peace in their own home, and say that their children will benefit immensely from the space that living in a five bedroom house will soon provide.
A Lifelong Goal Accomplished--Dorreen's Story
One of Dorreen's life goals was to become a homeowner by the time she turned thirty-five. After she celebrated her 30th birthday she began looking into various housing opportunities, but they were out of her price range. Then in one week, three people suggested that she apply for Habitat for Humanity of Omaha's Homeownership Program.
|Dorreen working on her 350 Sweat Equity hours by drywalling a Habitat Omaha home.|
There have been definite challenges for a family of five living in a three bedroom house.
"My youngest shares a room with me. He has no area of his own to play in, so his toys are in my living room. My ten year old daughter and eight year old son share a room as well. There is not enough space for them to rearrange furniture, and they argue because of the lack of privacy. We have to use the space in their closets to store the dressers."
Dorreen has made a huge effort to learn everything Habitat Omaha's construction crew is willing to teach; including framing, hanging drywall, painting, roofing and siding.
"My favorite part of Sweat Equity has been meeting all the families that are like mine; people who are willing to sweat, and we do sweat, to make a house a home." Dorreen says that watching the house progress through different stages of construction and having the opportunity to build her own house will be a story to tell her grandkids...way in the future. In addition to work on the construction sites, she has helped advocate Habitat's mission to the public by earning Sweat Equity at several speaking events.
Having a stable environment for her children has always been a priority for Dorreen.
"Habitat's program has helped me show my kids that regardless of the problem, with the right effort and determination you can accomplish your goals. Anything can be done."
After she completed her 350 hours of Sweat Equity, Dorreen signed a no-interest loan and began making affordable monthly mortgage payments on her house. Now that Dorreen is in her home she plans to install a garage door opener, add a fence and swing set to her backyard, and spend time with her munchkins watching movies in their new living room.
Becoming Established in the Community--Mon and Mangali's Story
Many Bhutanese relocated to India and were met with more military action. As they entered the country, they were loaded onto military trucks and driven to the border with Nepal. It was in Nepal that the United Nations set-up refugee camps to house the families.
Mon and Mangali were both born in Bhutan, but each of their families fled the country when Mon and Mangali were young. The two lived in different sectors of the Goldhap Refugee Camp in Nepal. They met and married in the camp and it was there that all of their children were born. When the family decided to relocate, they completed a form, and were told they would be relocated to one of three countries: the United States, Canada, or New Zealand. They were not allowed to choose where they would go but began classes to help them assimilate into their new cities. The family then began a long trip to Omaha. The family is very happy here despite the challenges of adjusting to the busy U.S. culture.
During their Sweat Equity, Mon and Mangali have learned how to build and repair different parts of a house and how to use tools. The family completed their 350 Sweat Equity hours and signed mortgage papers to purchase their house with a no-interest loan. They will continute making affordable monthly mortgage payments over the next 30 years to repay the loan in full.
In all, the U.S. is accepting 60,000 displaced Bhutanese. Mon and Mangali applied to Habitat Omaha because they want to provide the kids with a stable environment. The family hopes to set an example for other Bhutanese families to establish themselves in the community.
Making the Move to Homeownership--Derrick's Story
The Pride of Homeownership--Traci's Story
The apartment we lived was very nice but it didn't allow my 1 year-old the freedom to play. There was no yard or area where he could explore and simply be a kid. I also didn't feel a connection with my neighbors--there was no sense of community among us.
By April of 1999 I heard back from Habitat Omaha. My journey to homeownership started with my 350 Sweat Equity hours that spring. I worked weekends with my family and friends to reach my goal. While my Sweat Equity experience with Habitat Omaha wasn't always easy I will say it was one of my most rewarding. I worked side-by-side with other homeowners. And I am so grateful to the volunteers who helped renovate my house and shared their building skills with me. That summer I learned to hang dry wall, caulk windows and doors, paint and my favorite, was installing siding. Even to this day, I own a well-equipped tool box that's still gets plenty of use.
By October of 1999 I was standing in my new house at the dedication. I couldn't believe it. My son Jared was two years old when we moved in. I remember the freedom he had to play in our own back yard. Over the years he spent hours exploring and owning every piece of that yard. While Jared's favorite part of the house is obvious, my favorite part of our home is the front porch. I think everyone should have one. In the summertime it's where I enjoy coffee in the mornings and hanging out visiting with neighbors in the evenings. Or sometimes I just sit on my porch and contemplate life.
My neighbors are just as big an asset to me as my home. And thanks to each of them I now feel part of a community. I know my neighbors and they know me. We can depend on each other and be supportive of each others needs.
My son Jared and I have owned our home for more than 11 years now. Since owning my home I have been able to go back to school and I am now a registered dental hygienist. My low monthly mortgage payments help me to afford the tuition for my son's private education.
We both have so much pride in our home. We are our own boss in our own house. If the yard needs to be cleaned, we clean it, when the snow needs be shoveled, we shovel. Having that ownership and pride in what we have has been a good lesson for my son who is now fourteen. And that's a lesson I never could have taught Jared without homeownership."
Karen Refugees Make Omaha Home--Win Sein and Eh Gay Gay's Story
More than one million Karen have been displaced while fighting for their independence from the Burmese army in Burma. Tens of thousands of Karen families have been pushed from their villages, to the jungle, to the hills and beyond the borders of Burma into Thailand. Many have watched their homes burned to the ground, their communities flattened and their loved ones killed right in front of their eyes as soldiers opened fire on their villages.
Today more than 3,000 Karen people are living here in Omaha. One of their local leaders recently shared, "for many Karen this is their first taste of freedom. No one will stop you when you are worshiping. You don't have to worry about feeling a gun in your back because you are of the Christian faith."
One of those families is Win Sein and his wife Eh Gay Gay. They recently moved to the United States and are partnering with Habitat Omaha to start a new life. Since living in Omaha, the family really enjoys the peace they feel when doing one of the things they truly love; fishing.
Win Sein hopes that the new home will provide enough room for their four children to grow: Shana Win, Paw Moo Win, Rees Moo Hay, and William Moo. Eh Gay Gay, who was a nurse in the refugee camp, looks forward to planting a large garden in her new backyard. The family feels "this is a great blessing".
Win Sein and Eh Gay Gay's house is one of three Habitat Omaha homes built in seven days by professional builders during our 2010 Builders Blitz. The builders donated their time and resources to Habitat Omaha during that special week. The new homes were dedicated on Sunday, July 25, 2010.
A Long Time Coming: One partner family's story, from Sudan to Nebraska
by Phillip Jordan
|The future homeowner of Habitat Omaha's 2010 Women Build house, Omjuma at the Wall Raising held in May 2010. (Photo by James Nedresky)|
"I just wanted a better life for me and my children," Dut says simply.
Dut dreamed of moving to the United States but that wasn't possible from Sudan then. Egypt was an option, however. Between 1994 and 2005, more than 58,000 Sudanese refuges sought asylum in Egypt, registering with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to escape the violent military conflicts festering in Sudan. In 1999, the Dut family joined those numbers traveling north to Egypt.
For three years, Dut worked toward gaining passage to the United States while also looking after four of her children. Her fifth and oldest child, Margaret Akol, was 12 years old when the family moved to Cairo. It fell to her to support the family. While her mother looked after the other siblings, Akol worked the next three years as a housekeeper for a wealthy family.
"Here's the thing," Akol says. "When you are a housekeeper, you have to stay with the people you work with. So I did that, which meant I could only visit my family for a day or two each week. I was happy to support my family, but it was very tough not being with them."
In 2002, Dut secured entry to the United States for her and her children. Three more years of uncertainty followed before the family finally settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where a new Sudanese-American community is growing. A decade ago, just over 1,000 Sudanese immigrants had moved to the Midwestern city. Estimates vary, but at least 10,000 Sudanese-Americans live in Omaha today, giving it one of the largest Sudanese populations in the United States.
Omaha offered the Dut family a supportive community, jobs and a stable feeling. However, even with both Dut and Akol working, the family didn't make enough money to live together.
Akol, now 22 and with a young daughter of her own, once again lives separately, in a small apartment. Her mother lives in a separate apartment, crowded with her five other children who range in age from 6 to 18.
Soon, the family will be reunited once again.
Late in 2008, on the advice of a friend at work, Dut applied to partner with Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. For the past year, she has been attending financial classes and putting in sweat equity hours working on other Habitat houses.
This past Saturday, May 8, work began on Dut's own home. Her family's house will be the 13th Women Build home constructed by Habitat of Omaha's women volunteers. Saturday's event took place during National Women Build Week 2010, which included more than 225 Women Builds across the United States.
Amelia O'Donnell is an AmeriCorps member serving with Habitat of Omaha. She will help at this house throughout the summer and is excited to have the chance to get to know Dut better.
"She's a single mom with six kids, and she's had her struggles coming from Sudan and living as a refugee," O'Donnell says.
Future Habitat Omaha homeowner Omjuma working on her Sweat Equity hours alongside AmeriCorps*National Service Member Amelia.
This will be the first home that Dut has ever built.As she watched the frames of her house rise Saturday she said she was surprised that somany volunteers-about 30-came to help on a cold, damp and blustery morning.
"I was surprised about the Women Build, too," Dut said. "I have never seen something like that, especially where I came from.
But it is good to see. I am very excited and glad to be with so many women."
For her part, Akol said she is most excited about the prospect of moving back in with her mother and the rest of her siblings in a home that is big enough for them all. She is also happy that-with newfound stability-she can again look toward dreams deferred.
"I have a lot of dreams that I want to accomplish," Akol says. "First, I want to go back to school and get my nursing degree. I want to support my daughter and do the best I can."
Phillip Jordan is a writer/editor for Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus. (Photos by James Nedresky)
Homeownership is Worth the Journey--Saw's Story
"Habitat homes are different from other homes because the owners are involved in the construction," said Saw Soe, Habitat Omaha homeowner. But few are as "involved" with the enthusiasm that Saw brought to work every day.
Each Habitat Omaha family must complete 350 hours of "Sweat Equity" which include hours spent learning construction on the worksite as well as educational workshops and classes. Saw, however, signed his final closing papers on his house with a grand total of 391.5 hours worked that he, his wife, Naw Paw, and his brother, Htee Wah, had compiled in just four months.
Saw's family is part of Omaha's growing population of Karen people; a group that has been persecuted in Burma (Myanmar) and forced to flee to refugee camps in Thailand and surrounding areas. Born in Burma, Saw lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for a few years. In 2007, Saw and his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Omaha.
Saw's enthusiasm was infectious and his cheerfulness quickly drew other homeowners, Habitat Omaha construction staff, and volunteers to him. "I like to think about making my favorite dinners with my family and new friends in the new kitchen...."
With each house that Habitat finishes in Omaha, a tithe amount is sent to support house construction for Habitat for Humanity in another country. Saw's influence on the teams of homeowners and volunteers was never more evident than during the house dedication ceremony of a fellow Habitat Omaha homeowner, Lisa. She had decided to honor her new friend, Saw, and called on him during the dedication to accept the tithe for her designated country: Thailand. (Photos by James Nedresky)
Habitat Sweat Equity is About More than Swinging a Hammer--Mustafa's Story
It's something every Habitat Omaha Family Partner must do; work 350 sweat equity hours before they can purchase their home. But little did Mustafa know just how much he would get out of this Habitat philosophy.
Not long ago Mustafa and his family, originally from Somalia, were living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Today he, his wife, and their sixteen year old daughter are helping to build their new Habitat Omaha home.
"When I look back on this year it's amazing to see how far we've come," Mustafa says. "Before I started doing my sweat equity, I barely knew how to use a hammer."
Now Mustafa can patch drywall, repair doors and install windows. But Mustafa's training started long before the construction site. He participated in Habitat Omaha's Introduction to Construction classes for homeowners, where he learned about the tools of the trade. He and his wife also attended a financial management class where homeowners learn how to manage their money and pay their bills.
The best part, Mustafa says, is that "Habitat has given us a chance to make a hands-on investment in our community." He now feels his family has made significant progress toward obtaining the American Dream.
"Each time I pay my mortgage," he says, "I will be making an investment in my family's future."
But Mustafa's investment doesn't stop there. Every mortgage payment he makes helps build more houses, which secures the future of even more Habitat Partner Families.
|After going above and beyond by completing many more than the required 350 Sweat Equity hours, Mustafa H. receives the keys to his new home at the dedication ceremony. (Photo by James Nedresky)||Mustafa H. works on his Habitat for Humanity of Omaha home with a volunteer. (Photo by James Nedresky)|