A Dream in Development: A Habitat Family Story

This story is a part of a series we are publishing called “Habitat Family Stories”. They’re the stories of our partner families from all walks of life in varying stages of their journey. Many of them have been in their Habitat homes for close to a decade. Get to know the families we work alongside by checking the “family story” tag

After Ethiopia’s revolution occurred in 1987 Lemlem fled to Khartoum/Sudan with her Sudanese neighbors and school friends. Lemlem lived alone in Khartoum until 1994 when she sought asylum and immigrated to New Zealand. She remained in New Zealand for four years and then married her husband Asefaw. She knew her husband from Ethiopia where they were neighbors. She moved to Indiana in the U.S. in 1998 when her husband sponsored her. Five years later, she became a US citizen.

In 2003 Lemlem and Asefaw decided to move to Seattle, Washington to enjoy the weather and be close to Asefaw’s sister in Lake City. The couple shared Asefaw’s sister’s apartment originally but later on the family moved to another apartment within the neighborhood for low income people. They wanted to stay in the area since everything they needed was nearby and most of their neighbors shared the couple’s multicultural upbringing.

Eventually, Lemlem developed a dream to have her own home for her and her family. In 2014, her manger recommended that she apply to the HomeSight program and from there her application was sent to Habitat for Humanity. “After about 3 or 4 months I got my home. Two ladies came with flowers… I was so excited,” she told us. Her sons were not so happy to move to the new Home at Rainier Vista though. Both sons had grown attached to Lake City, and developed friendships in school and the neighborhood; “They’re still too small to understand what it means to own a home”. After they moved in to the new home though, her eldest son told her “we are not going to sell our new home for any reason, we should keep it forever.”

Lemlem and her husband ultimately decided to divorce but he still supported her throughout the process of building her own home. He donated 100 hours of service and the family was able to build their home within 9 months. Despite their divorce, Lemlem and Asefaw remained friends to the point that no one in the community knew they separated. “We used to go together to church and everywhere. He loves his children and they love him, he was a good father but not a good husband.”

Now that Lemlem has attended all Habitat homeowner education classes, she feels prepared to take on any problems that may come up but at the moment she is satisfied with her new purchase. She takes pride in cleaning her home and going to sleep happy with her decision. Even though she is busy throughout the week and often has to work on Sundays after church, she has dedicated herself to getting involved in the community and knows four out of the five or six neighbors she does have. For Lemlem, everything she went through was worth it. “Now I have no problem, I don’t have to think about rent…. I am so happy, everything is better for me in this area.”