Our story begins in 2010 when my family immigrated to Canada from Colombia. Although the adjustment to Canadian life was challenging (especially those -40 winter days!) we were skilled workers and had a lot of dreams of how Canada would change our lives. My wife Claire, our eldest son Esteban and I first lived in a practically empty apartment in Gatineau when Claire was pregnant with our youngest son, Santiago who is now 8 years old.
Our goal from the beginning was to have our own home, but first we had to find work. Despite having a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in administration, plus 20 years of experience working with the government in Colombia, I could not find a job. I decided to return to university and continue to look for work and in 2014 I finally found steady employment. My family and I thought we would now be able to purchase a home, but again we were refused. We did not make enough money for a loan and needed a large down payment to qualify for a mortgage.
At this point, Santiago was experiencing language issues and needed speech therapy. Our options were limited in Gatineau, so in 2015 we relocated to Ottawa so that our son could get the care he needed. For two years, we lived in a cramped apartment where my wife shared a bedroom with Santiago and I had to sleep on the couch. The rental was in a part of the city that had a lot of gang activity and violence, and my wife and I became very worried as we did not want our sons growing up in this unsafe neighbourhood. All this time we tried to save for a down payment, but it was very difficult as most of our paycheque went towards rent.
In 2017, a friend told us about Habitat and encouraged us to apply. The day we were accepted, my wife and I cried because we were so happy and excited. We knew this time, things would be different. The dream of having a stable, safe place to live for Santiago and Esteban is now a reality. We knew that we would not have such a life-changing opportunity if it weren’t for generous Habitat donors like you – I hope you will consider supporting Habitat Greater Ottawa again this holiday season, so they can continue to help more families like mine.
As part of Habitat’s homeownership program our family completed 500 volunteer hours.. I worked Monday to Friday at my current job and Saturdays and Sundays, I volunteered at the ReStore. I then took three weeks’ vacation and went every day to the Leacross Landing build site, working alongside the Habitat construction crew, build volunteers and my future neighbours. I was exhausted, but happy because the effort and sacrifice was worth it.
April 25, 2019 is a day my family and I will remember forever! We received the keys to our new Habitat home in front of the Habitat office staff, construction crew and the many donors and volunteers that supported us each step of the way. There’s now enough room for all four of us and I feel at peace knowing my sons are in a safe neighbourhood where they can walk to school, go outside to play and meet up with friends. Santiago is doing much better with his speech therapy and Esteban is growing into a responsible young man, handling school, sports, friends and a part-time this past summer. I hope you can see from my story that it is the children of Habitat homeowners that truly benefit from a Habitat home. This is more than a roof over our heads – it is a home where my children can reach their full potential.
With many thanks,
Pablo, Habitat Homeowner
P.S. Your support has helped to break the cycle of poverty for eight Habitat Greater Ottawa families in 2019 who otherwise would not have been able to afford a home. Currently, 42% of households in Ottawa spend over 30% of their income on rent and utilities, and 9% of renter households are living in overcrowded accommodations. With over 12,000 households on Ottawa’s Centralized Waiting List, we need your help to continue to grow the numbers of families served by Habitat Greater Ottawa. You can make your donation today using the online donation form at the top of the page. Or please consider making an impact all year round by becoming a monthly donor. As a Hope Builder, Habitat Greater Ottawa will be able to rely on you the same way families rely on Habitat.