It took Alice Green two years to move to America after her mom filed a petition, three years for her to purchase her own house, and another five years to become a U.S. citizen. But her proudest achievement came after sixteen years–paying off her mortgage.
“Habitat got me to where I am today,” she explains. “ I feel very proud of myself.”
Being part of the Habitat for Humanity community has been a blessing for Alice’s whole family. Her sister, Dahlia, has a Habitat home right next door and recently paid off her mortgage, too.
Alice’s family immigrated from Jamaica in the late 1990s. Alice tried to build a life there for her and her son but the high cost of living and the lack of jobs for women made it difficult to get ahead. She finally fulfilled her dream of moving to America and joined the rest of her family.
Alice’s mother warned her about the rainy weather in Portland but she didn’t think much of it. It rained in Jamaica, how bad could it be? “I cried every morning when I first got here. It always rained and was so cold. It was so hard to go to work in the mornings! In Jamaica, if it was raining, we just didn’t work.”
The weather wasn’t the only thing Alice had to adjust to. Her schooling from Jamaica wasn’t recognized in the States and the “American dream” she had hoped for was harder to achieve than she had expected. Alice and Dahlia both started working for Honeybee Ham Company and they set their sights on finding their own apartments.
Alice and her son soon found their own apartment but they were sharing a cramped bedroom together. She still hoped to purchase a house of her own one day. Regardless of the tough times, there were things Alice started to appreciate about living in America. “There is work in America that women don’t do in Jamaica. Some jobs are looked at as a ‘man’s job’ in Jamaica. Here, women do the same work as men and that is empowering.”
Alice’s mother learned about Habitat for Humanity from a friend and thought it would be a good option for her children. Both Alice and Dahlia applied for Habitat homes and were accepted into the program.
With the stability of homeownership, Alice was able to focus on her career. She began a new job as a TriMet driver, a career she’s enjoyed for the last 13 years. She says it’s something she would never be able to do in Jamaica. “I work harder in America but I have more opportunities here as a woman and that feels good.”
Alice moved to America with one suitcase and says she never thought she would be where she is today. She says she would still be living in small apartments and would probably have to move a lot to keep her rent low. “Habitat provided me with an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have. I can only go up from here,” says Alice. “I’m always moving forward. Thank you, Habitat!”