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By Don Mitchell / Dec 20, 2016

Family Leaves Africa for a Better Life in America

23466_hhpbp1216_1024x438 Francis and Schola left their jobs as doctors in the Democratic Republic of Congo three years ago to escape political corruption and pursue the American dream.

Now that dream is becoming a reality – one nail, one two-by-four, one shingle at a time.

In early 2017, Francis and Schola – who we’re identifying by first name only to protect their privacy – expect to move in to their new Habitat for Humanity home, which they’ve helped build alongside volunteers from Transamerica.

The couple came to the United States from Africa in 2013 and initially settled in North Carolina. A year later, Francis and Schola (pronounced SKO-la) brought their family to Denver.

“It’s rough in Africa,” Francis said. “The first day we got here, we were so happy to be in the dream of America.”

Part of that dream was to own a home.

“We feel very excited to have our own house, and we feel grateful to Transamerica,” Francis said while working on his house during the first day of the build in October.

Transamerica is helping fund and sponsor construction of the two-story, four-bedroom house, which is on schedule to be finished in February.

Habitat, a nonprofit housing organization, isn’t donating the home to Francis and Schola. The couple will purchase it with a no-interest loan attached to an affordable, 30-year mortgage. Francis and Schola also must devote 200 hours in sweat equity to build their home and the homes of other Habitat families.

“We feel very comfortable helping other people change their lives,” Francis said. “It’s good training, and I’m learning how to fix things by participating in the program.”

The couple has been living with four other family members in a cramped, two-bedroom apartment since moving to Denver in 2014. During the winter months, the apartment doesn’t heat well, and the family has dealt with insects, a less-than-ideal situation for their 18-month-old daughter and newborn son.

Schola’s mother and Francis’ cousin will also live in the house, which sits in a neighborhood among 15 other Habitat homes.

The family followed many fellow countrymen to Colorado after hearing the state is a wonderful place to live.

In fact, one of Francis’ friends recommended he apply for a Habitat home.

“I found a program and applied in November (2015),” Francis said. “They looked at our situation, and we were notified in May that we were selected.”

Francis and Schola aren’t afraid of working hard. The legal permanent U.S. residents are nurse assistants at Denver-area hospitals.

They were each physicians in Africa. However, they lacked the necessary credentials to be doctors in the U.S.  They said they are planning to earn degrees in internal medicine here.

Having a home of their own will help them achieve that goal. Francis plans to turn one of the rooms into an office where he and Schola can work and study.

“It’s going to encourage us,” Francis said of the new home. “We’re also going to be able to save money for retirement and college.”

Aside from having extra space, the children will be able to play in a yard.

“Every child should be able to have their own home,” Francis said. “We’ve been living in a cold apartment and throwing away money on rent. This new home is a blessing for us.”

Transamerica is committed to helping the Habitat for Humanity program across the United States. In the past year, Transamerica employee volunteers have worked to help families in need of decent, affordable housing in:

  • St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Plano, Texas
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Memphis, Tennessee

Learn how you can volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity build in your community.

Related articles:

Transamerica Sponsors Its First Habitat for Humanity Full-Home Build

Habitat for Humanity: ‘More Than Just a Roof’

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