Work begins on Habitat home for refugee family

On Friday night, Oct. 9, Kettering’s football fans got to see a truly special and heart-warming moment. Faustin Hategekimana, his wife Teresa Uwanyiligira, and their five children humbly stood on the football field, waving before the crowd as everyone cheered and applauded.

The announcer at the game introduced them, saying that this family will receive the first-ever Habitat for Humanity house built in Kettering, and the house will be supported by money raised from Fairmont’s Spirit Chain.

The family has come a long way to Kettering, Ohio. Originally from Rwanda, they decided to leave that African country in 1997 because they felt it was not safe. Rwanda has a long history of ethnic tension, and it is estimated that 800,000 people in that country were killed in a span of only 100 days in 1994.

“We spent six years in a refugee camp in Angola, South Africa, before coming to the United States,” said Hategekimana quietly. “In the refugee camp, I couldn’t go to school and there was no hope, but here I am blessed with the opportunity to go to school and work to feed my children.”

Overcoming hardships and creating a better life

The family moved to the United States six years ago. The mother and father both worked hard to learn the English language quickly. “It was really difficult to learn, but the people are so kind here,” said Hategekimana.

Hategekimana is taking advantage of his opportunities in the United States by working as a nurse’s aide while he attends Wright State to complete his nursing degree. Uwanyiligira also attends Wright State, where she is studying physical therapy. “It’s hard to work and go to school, but it is a dream come true and it is worth it,” said Hategekimana gratefully. “We are so lucky to live in the United States.”

While patiently awaiting their new house, the family is living in an apartment. They have five children, all of whom attend Kettering City Schools. Jeande Dieu, 15, and Jean Christophe, 12, both attend Kettering Middle School. Jean Louis, 10; Consolation, 8; and Jean Frank, 6, attend John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

“The kids are so excited for the house,” said Hategekimana. “It will be the first house in their lifetime. The fact that it is in Kettering is exciting, because that is where they go to school and have friends.” 

The ‘absolutely perfect Habitat family’

Others are happy for the family, too. “They are an absolutely perfect Habitat family,” said Gail Basine, the Family Services Coordinator for the Dayton branch of Habitat for Humanity. “They are such an appreciative, hard-working family, and they understand the process of waiting.”

Demonstrating their hard-working nature, Hategekimana and Uwanyiligira went above and beyond Habitat’s required 550 hours of sweat equity labor to help build houses of other Habitat for Humanity families. “We are going to work hard to have our own home and pay for it,” said Hategekimana.

Jenny Borchers, Activities coordinator at Fairmont, believes the family truly deserves the house. “The family is very inspiring,” said Borchers. “The parents work hard and are going to school to earn degrees. They are doing everything to create the best life they can for their family.”

This fall, volunteers got things under way with a ground-breaking of the home site on Saturday, Oct. 10, at 8:30 a.m. Fairmont is one of the house’s main contributors, donating half of the money raised in the Spirit Chain specifically to the first Kettering house.

Habitat for Humanity’s website describes the program as “a non-profit, volunteer-driven. Christian ecumenical housing ministry dedicated to providing decent, affordable housing to families in need.”  Habitat for Humanity takes pride in being “a hand up – not a handout” to families in need.

According to the Dayton Habitat for Humanity website, the organization is a partnership, not a charity. Families apply to earn a house of their own. Once accepted, they must pay a down payment and a monthly mortgage and invest hundreds of hours of labor-sweat equity into building their own house and houses of others. 

‘We love Kettering and it is our home’

The family is excited that their house is going to be in Kettering. “It is like fate that the first Kettering house is being built for Faustin and Teresa’s family,” said Basine. “When we drove around and looked at different lots with the family, they really liked the idea of being in Kettering, especially to send their kids to Kettering schools. They thought it was like divine intervention when they found out that we had never built in Kettering before and they were really hoping to be in Kettering.”

Borchers encourages Fairmont students to get involved in the building of the Habitat house. “Students who are 18 can become volunteers, and students under 18 can participate in Youth Days, when no power tools will be on site and they can help with painting and landscaping,” she said.

The family is thankful for Habitat for Humanity. “They [Habitat for Humanity] show the true American spirit of helping others and giving others the freedom and joy of living,” said Hategekimana. “My family and I just want to tell them, ‘Thank you so much.’ ”

For more information about how you can help build the family’s Habitat house, visit and click the ‘Volunteer Now!’ button to fill out a simple form to access volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in donating to Fairmont’s Spirit Chain to contribute financially to the house, click here.

“We consider this program such a blessing,” said Hategekimana. “We love Kettering and it is our home.”