The Mitchell family paused outside their side of the new Habitat for Humanity duplex, during the official celebration of the completion of the project Wednesday night. – Catherine Szabo Photo
By Catherine Szabo
After approximately a year of planning and building, things finally slowed down enough that Habitat for Humanity was able to bring together volunteers, the partner families and the community at large to celebrate the completion of the latest project.
The Ghebretatios-Hailom family and the Mitchell family moved into the duplex on the Saskatchewan side of Lloydminster before Christmas, but last Wednesday was the official celebration to welcome the families home, said Rowena Epp, board chair of Habitat for Humanity, Lloydminster.
“We had initially hoped that we would get them in before the fall, but with weather delays it put us a little behind,” Epp said. “But we never got discouraged, everybody still remembered that the end prize was getting these two very deserving families into their homes, and we didn’t lose sight of that for a moment, and the community really pulled behind us and we got it done.”
Each side of the duplex is 1,000 square feet – for the Ghebretatios-Hailom family, who have six children, there are three bedrooms upstairs and two downstairs, said Greg Mathias, the project co-ordinator. With three bedrooms upstairs, the basement of the Mitchell family’s house was left for future development.
Both families had been living in small apartments with less-than-adequate room for so many people, so the extra space was one of their biggest needs, said Valarie Mitchell.
She added that it took awhile to sink in that this was their new home for their five-person family.
“When we first walked in, our kids were like, ‘Oh, this is our new home,’ and then my little girl said, ‘No, we have to go back to our old home.’ So it was really heartbreaking, there were lots of tears and that, but it’s nice to be there,” she said.
The family also recently added a dog to the mix, and it has helped with the transition, Mitchell continued.
“At the old place, we didn’t really have a backyard to play in, but now that they do they’re always out there with (the dog), and it’s a blast for everybody,” she said, noting that the health of her three children has improved drastically since moving.
The two families are the sixth and seventh families that have partnered with Habitat for Humanity. It takes about three to four months to decide on the family, and then another month of planning to determine the family’s needs, Mathias said.
The families are required to complete 500 hours of sweat equity to take ownership of their new homes, and even though Mitchell said she’s not very good with tools, it was a lot of fun, and she hopes to be part of future Habitat projects.
“I was terrible with everything,” she said with a laugh. “I tried. A few times you hit your thumb and you wanted to give up, but it was definitely the other volunteers that made it fun. You made a mistake and ‘Oh no, not a problem,’ and they’d show you.
“It was a lot of fun, everyone pulled together, you didn’t feel uncomfortable, you didn’t feel like the black sheep of the group who didn’t know anything, they definitely showed you what to do.”
The way the community came together, building the house, made it feel like family, added Tatios Ghebretatios, one of Baire Ghebretatios and Mekdes Hailom’s children.
In addition to local community support, including monetary donations and man hours from corporations and individuals, the Saskatchewan government also provided $100,000, about a quarter of what Epp estimated to be a $400,000 project.
The next build will be on the former Forester property, which was donated to the Habitat organization last year. The property is being surveyed right now, after which a house design can be determined; Epp said they’re hoping to eventually have six to eight families on the site.
“Obviously, we can’t do all of that in one year and it’s going to take some time, so we for sure are going to get the demolition done this year – we’re not sure how far we’ll get with the actual construction – but we’ve definitely already started the process,” she said.
The organization accepts partner family applications all year long. It’s exciting to see families move into their new homes, Epp said, because despite the prosperity of Alberta and Saskatchewan, a lot of families are just barely making it.
“There is an incredible need, and Habitat for Humanity is able to help build stronger communities, and build strong families, and so we’re thrilled at the support we’ve received – you would be surprised at how many families are in need of simple, decent homes, ri