Four-year-old Yohanna looked up at her mother, Woinshet Tumebo, and asked, “Is this our new house?”
When Tumebo said yes, Yohanna broke out in an ear-to-ear grin, before grabbing onto her mother and giving her a long hug.
Tumebo and her husband, Tefera Ashigo, received the keys to the brand new Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa home on July 26, and the family was seeing their completed house for the very first time.
They’ve moved several times since arriving in Canada several years ago from Ethiopia, after they were forced to leave due to political issues.
The family, including Yohanna and her sister, Elda, 3, will finally have a permanent home after an August long weekend move into Orléans.
They were accepted into the Habitat for Humanity GO program to purchase a home in Orléans on Cousineau Street. Ashigo, a custodian, and Tumebo, a cashier at Tim Hortons, will pay the principle on the mortgage, but not any interest, making the house affordable for the family.
They was one of four families to receive keys to their brand new Cousineau St. homes on July 26 in a welcoming ceremony.
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Habitat for Humanity GO interim CEO Kristen Harold welcomed the new families and reflected on the hundreds of hours of work that went into the year-long build process for the two single homes and two town homes.
She said all the volunteers and Habitat staff “put their heart and soul into everything they do.” The homes were built by regular volunteers, as well as two special builds – a youth build, which included students from Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and a women’s build.
The families selected for the homes had to meet a strict set of criteria, including a minimum income, contribute sweat equity hours, and take courses on home ownership and upkeep.
Ragan Boakye said she’s overjoyed to move her two boys away from their high-crime west-end neighbourhood.
“I can go to work without worrying,” she said. “I know this is a safe community … you made my children’s future better, and as a single mom, and a black mother, I have two black boys – living in a bad neighbourhood is very challenging. So thank you for taking that, and giving my children a better future.”
Boakye’s been so excited for the house to be built that she’s been driving by twice a week to admire the volunteers' handiwork.
Youssouf Sougueh said it’s like “Christmas in July” finally getting the keys to move in. His family moved to Canada several years ago as well, from Dijbouti, and has four children – including a 10-month-old baby, who wasn’t born when construction started.
Samantha Bildwin was choked up as she thanked everyone who made the homes a reality, flanked by her partner Peter Slota and her two daughters, nine and four, who held onto her dress as she spoke.
“This really was our dream, and it's here,” she said. “We have a home and we don’t have to live with someone else’s mouldy rugs anymore. This day has come, and thanks you so much to everybody. I’ve seen the hard work that’s gone on here.”