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(Posted 9:30 a.m., July 29)
Habitat for Humanity families begin to move into their new homes

By Fred Sherwin
OrléansOnline.ca

The Slotas -- Peter, Samantha, Haley and Isabelle - are still getting used to their Habitat for Humanity home on Cousineau Drive in Orléans. Fred Sherwin/Photo

For many financially challenged families, the idea of owning their own home is little more than a pipe dream. But for four families who are the beneficiaries of the latest Habitat for Humanity project on Cousineau Street in Orléans, that dream has become a reality.

After months of delays, the four families are finally moving into their new abodes and settling into their new surroundings.

Woinset Tumebo and Tefera Ashigo were in the process of moving into their new home on Saturday and were still adjusting to their new reality.

"It's exciting and crazy at the same time," said Woinset, who along with her husband Tefera and their two children Yohanna, 3, and Elda, 2, received the keys to their new home during a special ceremony last week, as did two other families -- the Souguehs and the Boaykes. The fourth family received their keys a month ago.

"It still doesn't seem real. The key ceremony was a bit overwhelming," said Woinset.

Habitat for Humanity recipients are chosen based on their ability to pay back their interest free mortgage. It's a popular misconception that the homes are free. In fact, each home is assessment a fair market value once it's built. The families then must make monthly mortgage payments based on the market value. The payments, however, are limited to 25 per cent of the family's gross income.

The recipients must also provide a minimum of 500 hours in "sweat equity" during the build, and most, if not all, spend hundreds of additional hours helping out on other Habitat builds long after they've moved into their new home.

For Woinset and Tefera, who spent hundreds of hours working on their new home and have waited over a year to finally move in, Saturday was the first day of the rest of their lives.

"We want to have another child, but we couldn't where we were before because it was too small and it wasn't safe and we couldn't afford anything bigger, so Habitat has been a real blessing for us," said Woinset.

Samantha and Peter Slota were able to move into their new home on July 1 along with their daughters, Hailey, 9, and Isabelle, 4. Like Woinset and Tefera, receiving a Habitat for Humanity home is a dream come true.

"For the first couple of weeks it was like living in a stranger's home, now it's starting to sink in that it's really ours," says Samantha. "This is not just the nicest home I've ever lived in, it's the nicest home I've ever seen. All the angels are square and the paint is beautiful. It's amazing."

For Samantha, who grew up in Orléans and went to Henry Larsen Elementary School, the Habitat for Humanity experience has been a coming home of sorts.

"It's really been surreal. One of the first things we did was take the girls to Henry Larsen, where they will be going to school in September, and showing them around where their mother went school."

Youssouf Sougueh and Amina Mohamed were planning to move into their new home with their four children Issir, 9, Souber, 7, Aicha, 4, and a 10-month-old baby on the weekend. Youssef has been dreaming of owning his own home ever since he immigrated to Canada from Djibouti in 2010.

"Before Habitat my dream was to own my own home and now my dream has come true. This a great thing especially for my son. Where we were living before it was in the basement and he had aspiration problems breathing, so this will be very good for him and for all my children," said Youssef, who invited his new neighbours over for a traditional celebration on Sunday.

The fourth family, Ragan Boakye and her two sons Showtell, 14, and Shomari, 10, plan to move into their new home in the coming days.

Like the other families who are relocating from neighbourhoods and situations which weren't the most conducive to raising a family, Ragan says she feels blessed to be given such an amazing opportunity.

“I can go to work without worrying,” Ragan said during last week's key presentation ceremony. “I know this is a safe community … you made my children’s future better, and as a single mom, and a black mother, living in a bad neighbourhood is very challenging. So thank you for giving my children a better future.”

Habitat for Humanity is currently planning to build 16 townhomes at the corner of Jeanne d'Arc Blvd. and Fortune Dr. The project is temporarily on hold while they deal with soil contamination caused by a gas station that occupied the site in the 1980s and 90s.

(This story was made possible thanks to their generous support of our local business partners.)

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