a family finds their way home partnering with Paterson Habitat

For Nathalie and her husband Jean, it's been a long journey home.

They were just small children when their families abandoned their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire) and fled waves of political and ethnic violence that threatened their lives.

For the next 10 years home was a sprawling U.N. refugee camp in Tanzania where Nathalie and Jean essentially grew up. They didn't meet each other until just before their families were re-settled to the United States in 2007. Today they are the parents of two toddlers and a new baby.

Nathalie and Jean are proud of their children and proud of their American citizenship. The big thing missing from the life of this growing family is a decent place to live at a cost they could afford.  "Home" right now is a cramped two-bedroom apartment in a building with multiple safety and health dangers. But in North Jersey's tight real estate market, this kind of housing still commands a stiff rent that stresses their family budget and makes it impossible to save for a home of their own.

But in a matter of months, they will have found their way home --- to a new home of their own that
they're building and buying in partnership with Paterson Habitat for Humanity.

Home will be a three-bedroom townhouse with 1.5 baths, plenty of sunlight and an energy efficient heating and cooling system.

The house is being built by our construction volunteers, with the help of "sweat equity" volunteer labor from Nathalie and Jean. They are financing it with a highly affordable Paterson Habitat mortgage, made possible by our donors.

"With renting you pay and pay then have nothing to show for it," Jean said. "But at the end of this mortgage, this house is going to be ours."

The house is being constructed in the 12-block section of the 4th Ward where Paterson Habitat is
concentrating on reviving an entire neighborhood. Just as the new house will be an asset for Jean
and Nathalie's family, the family will be an asset to their new neighborhood.

Hard work and initiative are part of their lifestyle. They arrived in America speaking only Kirundi, a language from their section of Congo. Within a year they learned English and Jean is now also fluent in Spanish, learned on the job helping customers at a Paterson area retailer. For years he worked 12 hours a day at two regular jobs. Now he schedules his shifts at a Totowa food distributor so he can care for the children while Nathalie takes part-time college classes in biology. For her, the new house fulfills a lifetime need.

“All my life I’ve been moving from place to place, now with this Habitat house, we have a real home where we can settle down and raise our kids.