Photos courtesy Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity offers affordable housing to needy families willing to help the organization and volunteers who are building the houses they will move into.
Out of the hundreds who apply, Habitat for Humanity chooses the most deserving.
In Richmond, that means six new homeowners and six new renters will be living on Ash Street sometime in 2018.
Soon, thanks to their hard work and the community’s support, Dureti Mohamed, her husband Gamachu Taha and their three children will have a new three-bedroom home to call their own.
Instead of a down payment, owners of each home are required to contribute 500 volunteer hours minimum, called sweat equity.
Taha, working at a paid job every day of the week, has an innovative way to put in his hours.
When he works a very early shift at London Drugs, or as an interpreter for the Immigration Review Board, he gets off earlier in the afternoon.
“So I can volunteer at ReStore in Vancouver four or five hours. Also, if I get a stat holiday off, I can put in a whole day volunteering. It adds up.”
ReStore are the Habitat for Humanity Thrift Stores where people can donate and buy new and used building supplies. (If you ever need to match that one old tile for the bathroom repair or find a remarkable deal on a gently used kitchen, do check out the ReStores around the Lower Mainland.)
Taha, with almost a year to go to project completion, now has only 45 of his 500 volunteer hours left to bank.
The Habitat owners’ other responsibility is making the interest-free mortgage payments every month once they move in.
If the owners decide to move away, they receive the amount they have paid, less property taxes. That amount can then be used as a down payment on their next family home.
At that point, their former home is then offered to a new, deserving family on the waiting list so the benefit, the leg up into better housing, is perpetuated.
This process also means that no one makes a windfall profit or, worse, suffers a loss should real estate crash in value.
Dad Taha, is a go-getter. He left Ethiopia as a young refugee, ending up in Nairobi, Kenya. Fourteen years ago, he came to Canada as a landed immigrant from the refugee camp. He got a job soon after arriving.
While working, he quickly did his Grade 12 Dogwood diploma through the Vancouver School Board Adult Education Program, then went on to Langara’s business programs, earning a diploma in financial management.
He’s now one class away from a second diploma.
Taha does all his schooling while also working as a part-time translator for the Immigration Review Board and as a full-time manager at London Drugs.
“I work seven days a week,” says Taha.
Along the way, Taha had been carrying on a long-distance romance with Dureti Mohamed who still lived in Ethiopia. They married in June 2011 and Mohamed joined Taha in Canada in 2012. Taha always wanted three children, like Prince William and Kate, while Mohamed says she thinks four children are the perfect size. They both say, “We’ll see,” with a smile.
Mom, dad, their two sons Dursa, aged four-and-a-half, and Ifnan aged three months, and their daughter Nanati aged two-and-a-half, currently live in a one-bedroom apartment with another adult. Things are crowded.
“If one gets sick, we all get sick,” Taha says.
Mohamed says she’s most looking forward to seeing the “kids being able to run around and play like children.”
Right now, she worries about downstairs neighbours. Taha nods. Next on Mohamed’s list is a dishwasher and a kitchen to make her own.
She’s also looking forward to having a washer and dryer handy.
With three children under school age, there’s no shortage of laundry to do. Right now, the coin-op laundry is on another floor of her apartment building.
Because the children are too young to leave alone in the apartment, Mohamed has to wait for the rare times her husband is home from his paid and volunteer jobs to do the laundry for their family of five.
While Mohamed hopes to help out at a local Community Kitchen once they move to Richmond, Taha says he will be looking for volunteer opportunities in Richmond in about year, when their new home is due to be completed.
This hard-working family who are also community volunteers and students, are looking towards a Habitat for Humanity home of their own in about a year. They will be a welcome, and hard working, addition to this community.