Families build better foundations in Habitat houses

Partnering with Habitat brings homeowners a world of new opportunities: financial security, potential advancement in jobs and education, independence, a strong sense of community and — perhaps best of all — the freedom and security of living without crushing housing costs or overwhelming worry.

An Ohio grandmother, an Indian tailor, a rice trader in Madagascar, or a mother in typhoon-struck Philippines — hear how all are achieving safer, better lives in a Habitat home.

Instilling hope in India and the Philippines

Dharumar Vinayagam lives in the coastal village of Koonimedu Kuppam in southern India. His mud hut was destroyed by the December 2004 tsunami.

Unable to walk because of polio, Vinayagam was carried to safe ground by his younger brother. He stayed for several months at a refugee camp with more than 1,000 other people before moving into a new house.

“Thanks to the new house, I got married,” Vinayagam says. “Even though I am disabled, I have always wanted to live like a normal person. It was Habitat that instilled the hope in me that I could lead a normal life.”

After moving into his Habitat home, Vinayagam was able to start a home-based tailoring business. “With a business of my own,” he says, “I am living with dignity and pride.”

Together with his wife Indirani, Vinayagam can make as much as 200 rupees (US$3.20) a day — more than six times the amount he used to earn as a daily wage laborer. Indirani says it is the couple’s dream to buy more sewing machines, expand their business and employ local young people.

In the Philippines, Mary Jane Lagarel Suco, too, is focused on meeting the needs of her family while connecting with her community. Despite having to run for her life when Typhoon Haiyan hit, Suco headed to Davao a week later to borrow money from her mother. She obtained vegetable seeds from a former classmate and replaced the garden that was destroyed with her house.

“My kids are young, and they need sustenance,” she says of her efforts. “Their needs are greater than my fears.”

Her family of seven lived in a temporary shelter for several months before receiving a repair kit with plywood, lumber and galvanized iron, which they used to rebuild their house.

The garden has grown nicely, providing the family with cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, squash and string beans. Suco also can earn as much as 200 pesos (US$4.40) a day selling vegetables to her neighbors.

Now stable and secure in her home and enjoying the sustenance and income her garden generates, Suco can provide for her family in yet another way. She is using flash cards from a local church to teach her children to read.

“I see my kids smile when they are learning,” she says. “I am happy.”

Stronger together in Ohio

“When I was a kid, I always said I wanted to live on the east side,” Kim Harris says.

The Youngstown, Ohio, resident always kept her eye on the area, renting there and joking with her in-laws that they should let her build a little house on their lot. Now, Harris says, “I’m so close I can almost touch that lot!”

Harris and three of her six children moved into their east side house in 2001. Now a proud grandmother, she has paid off her Habitat Mahoning County home and watched all her children graduate and build their own lives. “I’m just so very blessed,” she says.

Harris’ Habitat house was the first in Youngstown’s Lincoln Knolls neighborhood. She and executive director Monica Craven have been pleased to see longtime residents extending the newcomers warm welcomes as Habitat has continued to build there. “They seem protective of these new homeowners,” Craven says, “and excited.”

In December, Habitat completed a group of five more houses built on a parcel of land acquired a few years after the Harris family moved in. The city has repaved roads and added streetlights and playgrounds in the area, all of which new Habitat homeowner Lian Prisby and her three children will be able to enjoy.

Like Harris, Prisby had been renting in the neighborhood and wanted to continue living there. Moving into her Habitat home just in time for Christmas, she’s delighted that her kids didn’t have to switch schools and looks forward to each of them having their own space. “Our apartment was just too small,” she says. “Too crowded.”

The Prisby house is Habitat Mahoning County’s 40th and was built during the affiliate’s 25th year. The build site became a kind of ongoing community celebration and partnership. Volunteers from 15 faith groups in the area provided volunteers, and Craven notes that Habitat also is partnering with local planning and construction groups.

“A lot of great work is happening here,” she says. “Together, we can do the rest of it.”

A changed life in Madagascar

“My name is Gence Solo Zurline. Before partnering with , I lived in a one-room thatched house.

“During the rainy season, water seeped inside, and it sometimes flooded. Every night, I barely slept. I was afraid of what might happen. Even wind might blow away the house.

“With Habitat’s help, I now live in a two-room house made of concrete blocks, with an iron sheet roof. I feel safe and have peace of mind, which is a valuable thing. I love my new house and my new life.

“I can now take good care of my daughter, feed her properly and give her a chance to advance as far as possible in her education. My dream is for her to finish and find a good job she likes. I am very proud of her. If one day I die, I would like her to have this house.

“God gave me an opportunity through Habitat to improve my life and that of my family. I am trying to help my neighborhood by doing simple things like lending construction materials, just as someone helped me one day.

“I would like to thank Habitat for changing my life.”

Your support changes lives. A decent and affordable place to live is the very foundation of a brighter future. Together, we can help more families — more mothers like Gence — find hope and security as they forge a path out of poverty.

Donate, advocate, volunteer today!

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