“I tell everyone I meet”
Homeowner Youkhanna is one of Habitat for Humanity’s biggest advocates. “I tell people in the grocery, in church, wherever I go, how Habitat for Humanity has changed my life,” he says. “I tell them how a house is important for every family. I tell them to support Habitat.”
Youkhanna’s Habitat home is the happy ending of a story that began during wartime. He is from Baghdad and operated a grocery store before signing on in 2003 as an interpreter for the U.S. Army. Three years later, after the security situation in his country had deteriorated, Youkhanna feared for his family’s safety and moved them to Jordan. In 2008, they immigrated to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he continues his work with the Army.
Youkhanna’s introduction to Habitat came when he volunteered with his new church in Raleigh to help other families build their homes. At the time, he, his wife, Samira, and children, including a son with special needs, were living in an apartment that the family struggled to afford. “I told my pastor that it was a big dream for me to have a house for my family,” Youkhanna says. “They helped me apply to Habitat Wake County.”
In July 2014, Youkhanna moved his family into the new home he helped build. Unlike the rent on their old apartment, the mortgage is affordable. “I am not throwing my money away,” Youkhanna says. “I can grow whatever I want in my yard. It is just a great feeling for me and my family to have this house. We are very happy.”
While earning the sweat equity hours required to become a homeowner, Youkhanna worked in the Habitat ReStore. He was such a big asset that he was hired on as a staff member to help customers and run the cash register. He donates 50 a month of his salary to Habitat. “I want to help Habitat help other families,” he says.
In February, Youkhanna traveled to Washington, D.C., to share his story with lawmakers during Habitat on the Hill, Habitat’s annual legislative conference. “I tell everyone I meet that they need to be ambassadors for Habitat,” he said. “I will do that for the rest of my life.”