What might look like a pile of dirt and an empty lot to some is a dream come true for four Ottawa families.
The official ground breaking for four new Habitat for Humanity homes was held at the Orléans lot at 1279 Cousineau St. on May 28.
“Today is a great day for our family,” said Tefera Ashigo, who will move into a home with his wife and three children. “We have been working hard to make our home owning dreams come true. Life has been stressful and exhausting since we couldn’t find a house that we could afford with the space we need. It was a miracle for us, when our friends called to tell us about Habitat for Humanity. It is an answer for our prayers.”
Ashigo works as a custodian with the public school board, and his wife works as a cashier at Tim Hortons. They moved to Canada from Ethiopia four years ago.
"It is an answer for our prayers.” Tefera Ashigo,
Ashigo said he’ll be grateful to not have to discourage his children from running and playing in their apartment and disturbing neighbours, and instead encourage them to play outside.
He was one of four speakers, all who expressed gratitude and excitement at being selected as a partner family to receive a home through Habitat for Humanity’s unconventional, interest-free mortgage ownership structure.
Samantha Bildwin, who works in banking, had to compose herself through tears before she spoke to the crowd at the ground breaking.
“As someone who helps people buy homes every single day, and not being able to get one myself … it’s emotional,” she said. “You’ve forever changed our lives for the better, so thank you.”
Bildwin and Peter Slota, a stay-at-home dad, will purchase a house for them and their two small girls.
Her girls, ages 7 and 3, have already started to plan how they want to decorate their rooms.
Single mother Ragan Boakye, applied for the program three times before she was accepted, and went back to school to pursue a new career to become a stronger applicant.
“I can sleep in peace, you guys aren’t going to be hostage at home,” she said to her two sons, ages 9 and 13. “You guys can run around and play, this is going to be a safe neighbourhood. We live in Caldwell, and we all know it’s a very bad neighbourhood, so thank you so much for giving us a better home.”
Youssouf Sougueh who moved to Canada five years ago from Dijbouti, spoke in French on behalf of himself, wife Amina Mohamed, and their three children.
He said their family is thankful for all the volunteers who will take part in the build over the coming months.
The four families joined politicians and Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers to celebrate the official start of construction on the four homes, which will be built in an innovative design on the deep lot off St. Joseph Boulevard.
“This is obviously a wonderful opportunity for not only the families, but the neighbourhood,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “This is a good old-fashioned barn raising.”
Part of the project will include a women’s build, which encourages females to get involved in construction and volunteering. A women’s build committee was in attendance, and will help throughout the project.
The community has been very welcoming of the project into the neighbourhood, said Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa chairman Ken Merkley.
“Everyone from the community association to local churches and restaurants have shown support,” he said.
The homes will begin construction shortly and be built through the summer and fall months. The families will move into the homes in late 2015.