Settling into a comfortable, secure home is a dream that Red Deer resident Almaz Fesshaye would have, at one time, never thought possible.
But her dream came true several years ago with the help of Habitat for Humanity, and to this day, she enjoys supporting the organization anyway she can so others can experience the blessing of ‘home’ as well.
She loves to cook, so she’s pleased to help provide meals for workers on other projects. Several Habitat houses are located near her in the Riverside Meadows area.
“If I get any chance to give back to the community, I will do it.”
Fesshaye arrived in Red Deer smack in the middle of winter with her two young children back in 1997. Originally from Eritrea, which is located on the Horn of Africa bordered by Sudan to the west and Ethiopia to the south, she had been living in Germany for a few years before heading to North America.
As to her homeland, it’s a world away in more ways than one – over the years there has been rampant conflict, human rights abuses and severe poverty. Life is a continual struggle for so many there, and Fesshaye, who works with Catholic Social Services as a rehabilitation worker, and she counts herself extremely fortunate to have made her way safely to Canada.
Her joy at having a home of her own is palpable.
“I take pride in my house.” She also can’t say enough about Habitat for Humanity, the organization that worked to make her home a reality.
“I don’t have the words to express it. It is an organization that stands for the good of someone in need.”
The organization finances homes with a no-interest, no down payment mortgage. Families also contribute 500 hours of ‘sweat equity’ to the project as their new home takes shape.
The concept of Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 in Americus, Georgia by Millard Fuller. The idea developed from the concept of ‘partnership housing’ where those in need of adequate shelter worked with volunteers from all walks of life to build simple, decent housing.
The Habitat for Humanity Red Deer affiliate was launched in 1994. Two homes were built in Delburne, but a period of inactivity followed from 1996 to 1998. With a donation of land from the City of Red Deer, the years from 1998 to 2005 saw steady growth with the construction of nine homes. To date, 25 homes have been built.
Habitat for Humanity now spans more than 90 countries and is responsible for placing over 225,000 families into homes around the world. Fesshaye encourages folks to get involved.
“They always need help, and there is always something to do.”
Her home was built in 2002. Prior to moving in, she lived for several years in a very small downtown apartment in Red Deer. It was indeed a dream come true to have a house; she felt safe and much less worried about her children, as they now had a backyard to play in as well. “This is so secure.”
Looking out the window over her yard nestled in a peaceful neighbourhood, it’s hard to imagine the uncertainty and instability that plagues her homeland, where she still has many relatives. “It’s very unstable. We are born in war, and we die in war. That’s our life. There is a lot of famine, but the most crucial thing is war. I have never seen peace in my country.”
Needless to say, she doesn’t take a thing for granted about her adopted country.
“There is no place in the world like Canada. This is my home.”
For more information, check out www.habitatreddeer.ca.