For Yohannes Lemsumo and his family, staying in one place sometimes proved difficult. Just as the family would get adjusted to a new apartment in a new town, the landlord would hike up the cost of rent so much that Yohannes, who is the sole earner for his family of five, could no longer afford to stay. “Year after year, the price went up,” he recalls. “I was getting tired of it.”
Spurred to find more permanent – and affordable – living arrangements, Yohannes took the advice of a friend and coworker and decided to apply for the Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake program. However, even before he was accepted into the program, he worried about how he would complete the mandatory 250 “sweat equity” hours required of the program. “I work hard, sometimes day and night,” said Yohannes, adding that the extra volunteer work meant that he would sometimes have to rearrange his schedule at his job as a chauffeur. “Sometimes I would have to take off to fit my hours in or take time away from family, but it was important for me to do this,” he noted.
Still, he says the hours he spent on the construction site were very memorable. “I had a lot of fun but I learned a lot,” he said, praising the volunteers who were on site to help manage the construction projects and provide lots of training and guidance. During his time at the build sites, Yohannes helped to demolish old houses to make way for the new, energy-efficient Habitat homes, helped with trim work and hanging doors, and even became a go-to guy when it came to installing handles and locks on doors. Another bonus of his time at the construction site was that he actually got to help in the creation of what will be his future home!
Speaking of his future house, Yohannes said he is very excited to move in and really make a comfortable home for his family, which includes his wife and three children, ages 6, 4 and 2. Yohannes and his wife moved to the United States from Ethiopia 10 years ago, and because they don’t have any family in the area, he is particularly mindful of owning a home now that can eventually be passed down to his children. Of course, being able to provide more room for his children and not having to pay rent to a landlord are also going to be a big bonus, he adds!
Reflecting on his time in the program, Yohannes praises Habitat for Humanity for taking a chance on him. “You gave when I was in need,” he said, adding that it is hard to put into words how much he appreciates each and every person who has helped him through the process. “They are all wonderful, really truly wonderful,” he said, adding that he would encourage anyone who fears that their dream of owning a home is out of reach to go ahead and apply. After all, Yohannes notes that his only regret is that he didn’t sign on to participate sooner.
Yohannes, congratulations to you and your family on your new home!
FMI, visit www.chesapeakehabitat.org.