A home worth waiting for
In 1972, our families were chased out of Burundi, East Africa by a rival tribe, the Tutsi Tribe. Our families moved from Burundi to Rwanda, then from the camp in Rwanda to the Lukole Refugee Camp in Tanzania, East Africa where we settled for a while with our families. Theo was born in 1988 and I was born in 1993 we were both born in the refugee camp in Rwanda before moving to the Lukole camp.
Living at Lukole Camp was very difficult, but we managed with the little we had. We were just happy to be alive. We had to work for every little thing for survival. The place was very dusty with gravel streets with huge rocks. The community was very small with tents pitched very close to each other. Since the community was so small, people got to know each other well. A life with no electricity or indoor plumping is not easy. We used cooking oil for our lamps at night and always had to make sure we had extra oil, matches, and flashlights for emergencies. After eight o’clock it got very dark and everybody was required to be in their homes.
We were given word that we were going to the USA. Our families were moved once again to Kanembwa Camp to wait for the process to move to the United States. There we lived for about 18 months. This place was not a place that we could even make a home. We could not farm or go to school. We were treated like dirt because this tribe did not want us on their land and they were jealous that the people living in this camp were going to live in the United States and they were not. All we could do is sit and wait in anticipation for our turn to come to be sent to the USA. Our families lived in refugee camps for 35 years.
Then in 2007 our families were approved to settle in United States by the United High Commissioner for Refugees. When we found out that we were coming to America, we forgot all of our troubles. It was the best news anybody who lived in Lukole could ever have received. In June of 2007 our families immigrated to the United States. I was 14 years old. I graduated from middle and high school in Buffalo, New York. Theo was 18 when his dad and cousins immigrated to Aurora, Illinois. Our families knew each other in Africa.
Theo and I once again met on Facebook. Our first conversation started when I liked one of Theo’s pictures. We started emailing and chatting with each other, and the romance started from there. We were engaged in August of 2012 and we were married on August 17, 2013. I continue to go to school at Waubonsee Community College for nursing. My husband is an assistant supervisor at Berry Plastics. He has worked there since 2008. In November of 2014 we had our beautiful daughter and now we are expecting another baby in October 2016. (They now have another beautiful daughter!)
We presently live in a studio apartment with one bathroom and a shared living room/bedroom space. Everything we had once gathered for a home we had to get rid of because of lack of space. We were in desperate need of a bigger place to live after the birth of our first daughter, but were unable to afford a bigger apartment.
We learned about Habitat for Humanity from other families and friends who live in different states. Almost everybody we know from Africa who has moved to the United States owns a habitat home. They told us that the houses are the right size and very affordable. That’s when we searched for an affiliate in our area and met Debbi Albright. We applied for a home in November of 2014 and with much prayer we hoped that our family would be chosen. We were always waiting with anticipation for the postman to bring us some good news. Then one day in the spring of 2015, Theo went to get the mail and there was a letter from Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity. The letter said that we were accepted and would be new future homeowners. Both Theo and I started to cry with happiness and we celebrated and started to plan our new home.
We are very excited to be a part of the Habitat family. We have always wanted a bigger place to call home where our children can grow up. Living in a one bedroom house with everything stacked up on top of each other is dangerous with a toddler in the house. Habitat for Humanity is making our dream come true. Just working with Habitat families and getting to know each other is a blessing. On July 22, 2016 Barbara called from Habitat to ask me if our family would be free in August to have a groundbreaking for our new house. I was silent for a moment and asked Barbara if she was joking. She said it was no joke and that our new home was going to be located at Solfisburg in Aurora and our groundbreaking ceremony would be on August 23rd. I was so excited that I was screaming and shouting hallelujah!
God promised us a bigger place before we even knew about Habitat for Humanity and He has kept His promise. We thank God for giving us the house this soon because we need it more than ever. God is good! We can’t tell you in words what this means to our family. All we can say is, Thank you Lord! -Odette & Theo Uwamahoro
In January of 2018, the Uwamahoro Family had a dedication for their home. They are enjoying the extra space and luxuries that their old home did not have and watching their daughters grow and thrive in their new home.