Written by Kate Maciejowski, Volunteer Storyteller

Perseverance goes a long way. Growing up in Ethiopia, the eldest daughter in a family of 15 children, Fatiya had responsibilities to her family and siblings well before she entered adulthood. After making the move to Portland, she spent many years moving from one apartment after another while working and taking care of her children. Fatiya was more than ready to become a homeowner, but struggled with finding an affordable option.

When she applied for a Habitat home in 2015, she  was overjoyed at the opportunity to be able to purchase her very first home. As all Habitat homeowners do, she completed 300 hundred sweat equity hours and eventually received the keys to her new home just after her youngest child was born. Having stable housing has made a world of difference for her and her children.

“Having stable housing and renting are totally different,” she says of the experience of becoming a homeowner. “Having stable schools and not having to move the kids from school to school, that’s a big deal. That’s what is important to me.”

Fatiya’s home is close to OHSU where she works as a hospital aide while attending school. She recently earned her certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant and continues to substitute teach at Head Start two days a week. She says it’s important for her to be a role model for her children.

“Seeing mommy go to school, to see that I can do it, I see a lot of change in them. They don’t get distracted. When I sit and do my homework, they sit and do their homework too. It’s very helpful.”

Fatiya is hopeful that the foundation of owning a home will give her kids the opportunity to be successful and pursue their dreams. She encourages each of them to allow themselves the time to learn what motivates them and to become who they aspire to be.

“It’s your choice, wherever you want to work. If you want to be a teacher or a doctor or a nurse, whatever it is, just focus on yourself.”

Her children have aspirations of owning their own home someday as well.  Fatiya is proud to have set that example for her kids. She and her children love their neighborhood and have formed close bonds with the other families who live in their community.

“I take my neighbor’s kids to school every day. We are like family. A little community just like a family.”

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