Family of 6 from Eritrea feeling 'so blessed' after getting keys to Habitat for Humanity house

Zekarias and Sembetu, a couple originally from Eritrea, and their four children are moving into their new home in Winnipeg this weekend, after getting the keys on Friday following 500 hours of sweat equity they put into the house.

House a tribute to longtime employee Vern Koop, who led 1993 build with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter

Sembetu, Gedna, Weldeyesus, Zekarias, Matias and Delina inside their new house on Friday. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

A Winnipeg family of six is ready to finally gather around the dinner table in the new home they moved into this weekend.

Until this week, Zekarias and Sembetu — a couple originally from Eritrea — and their children Delina, Matias, Weldeyesus and Gedna have been living in a small, drafty rental that didn't have enough room for them to all sit down for a meal.

On Friday, they got the keys to a four-bedroom house they helped build with Habitat for Humanity.

"We are so excited today. We are excited by this house, but more than that … by your good hearts," Zekarias said with the help of an interpreter as the family stood inside their new three-storey house in North Point Douglas. (For privacy reasons, Habitat for Humanity did not give the family's last name.)

"We have nice people here in this country. We are so blessed."

The house was built in memory of longtime Habitat employee Vern Koop, who died a year ago. Koop was the project lead for the 1993 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project for Habitat for Humanity, and ended his career with the former U.S. president's second work project for the charity in 2017.

The family put 500 hours of work into helping build their new home. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Originally from Eritrea, Zekarias and Sembetu's family came to Canada from Sudan in 2016. They had, until this week, been been living in a three-bedroom apartment above the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.

Zekarias said he never imagined his family would be able to afford a place like their new home.

"I really got something which was like a gift," said the father, who works a full-time construction job and a part-time job as a dishwasher at a restaurant.

The family will pay a mortgage based on 27 per cent of their household's gross taxable income, a news release from Habitat for Humanity said. After 15 years, they will be required to get a mortgage with a traditional lender.

Now that the house is finished — and Zekarias and Sembetu have finished their 500 hours of sweat equity to help build it — they can't wait to start fresh.

"He cannot express [it], but he's so happy. They are so happy," Zekarias' interpreter told the crowd of people who watched as the family got their keys. "And especially to have you all [here], it's special."


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