“Before the war, life in the Congo was easy. We worked. It was good. But then we couldn’t stay,” said Singaye, who after a long journey moved to Tucson with his wife Esperance and their five children – Joyce, Florence, Samson, Benny, and Isabella – as asylum seekers.
After they left the Congo, the family settled in a Kenyan town. Life in Kenya was difficult, and Singaye says they were lucky if they just found something to eat. Singaye worked as a teacher two days a week and Esperance cooked at the school nearby, but the pay wasn’t enough to live off of and the family endured for seven years in Kenya until they were finally approved for asylum.
Singaye says the family was ecstatic once they found out they could leave Kenya. It just felt like the right place. Singaye started working at a Mister Carwash and Esperance got a job at the Tucson Airport. The family found an affordable rental home, but it was too small for a family of seven. Besides the need for space, some of the windows in the home were sealed shut, and there were pipes broken inside the wall. Their roof leaked badly and their landlord never fixed it. Mice left holes in their bags of food.
“They make noise at night,” said Esperance. “You turn on the light and they scatter.
A friend in the homeownership program told them about Habitat Tucson and Singaye became interested. “When you rent, tomorrow you could be moving. It’s another person’s home,” he said. “But if you own a house, it’s yours. Your children can go to the same school; you can grow old there and retire. Then you can eventually leave it to your children.”
They were approved for the homeownership program in June 2017. And they are embracing the hours and classes they must complete.
“When you are doing something and you are happy to do it, it becomes easy. We are always looking ahead,” says Singaye. “We all work together and it’s hard, but we are all working on balancing it together.”
The kids are also excited. They ask their parents every day when they can move. Their oldest daughters go to the build site every Saturday and work alongside their parents, Habitat volunteers, and other homebuyers. The future feels within reach.
“This is their home,” Singaye says of Tucson, recognizing that his home country is not the home of his children. “And here, we’ll be able to breathe. We’ll be able to stay.”