From refugees to future home owners

Mar 23, 2017

The San family fled their home country Burma and left behind all they had, becoming refugees. Now they are at the beginning of a journey towards home ownership, alongside Habitat for Humanity. Something they could only dream of in the past.

The San family – Nang Phong, Zaw Mai and children Shong (7), Jack (3) and Mia (1) were chosen by Habitat to be part of the Assisted Home Ownership Programme in Hamilton.

“Sometimes I think I am in a dream, but I am not, it is real.” Nang Phong smiles. On settling in New Zealand, the couple has worked hard to build up their lives. Zaw Mai found work in the aviation sector and has recently completed his level four certificate in building. Both continue to learn English and Nang Phong wants to go back to work once all children are at school.

She says her biggest wish is “happiness and health for her children” and she is excited about their future in New Zealand. Owning a home will play a vital role. Their current old, cold and damp two-bedroom ‘state house’ aggravates son Jacks’ asthma and eczema, and baby Mia lives with a heart condition which makes her even more vulnerable. “The house is cold, we have only one warm room in winter. It is not good for our children,” Nang Phong explains. ”

Nic Greene, General Manager of Habitat for Humanity Central North Island has a lot of confidence “the San family will thrive. They are a hardworking and responsible family. All they need is support to get over the first hurdle of home ownership. Something that Habitat’s Assisted Home Ownership Programme does.” But it does more than that. The programme helps to break the cycle of poverty.

“A stable and suitable living environment where a family can stay for as long as they want. This positively impacts wellbeing, health and education and with that employment opportunities improve,” Nic Greene explains.

“Habitat’s assisted home ownership programme means families help to build their home, invest 500 hours of their own time in what we call ‘sweat equity’, and then rent that home for a five-year term.”

When certain expectations are met during the rental phase, the family would then be able to purchase the home. They do this utilising the rent they had paid less Habitat’s expenses and often utilising Kiwisaver.

“Habitat believes everyone deserves a decent place to live – and we do that through a lot of ways, including home ownership and home repair. A simple, decent home is one that’s not crowded, is warm and dry, where a family’s not going to get moved on at short notice or be discriminated against.”