A family of five refugees from Africa has found a home in Iowa City. More than a decade ago, they fled warfare in the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent ten years at a refugee camp in Tanzania. Mark Patton, executive director of the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, says the family eventually reached America and lived in a cramped Iowa City apartment.
Patton says, “They were in a two bedroom and they’ve got three little kids and people above and below them were complaining, the kids were up at night, and it wasn’t a friendly situation.” Mutula Kasiriba and his wife desperately needed a change, so they applied to the Habitat program.
They put in hours of sweat equity, went through a credit check, got on a waiting list, and ended up in a formerly condemned property on Nevada Avenue, according to Josh Hall, the Habitat program’s construction manager. “There was no roof on half the house, everything was rotten, the dry wall was all moldy, there were animals living in the walls,” says Hall.
Over the last seven to eight months, volunteers rehabilitated the property. They stripped it to the foundation and studs, then rebuilt it with green features, including energy-efficient windows and insulation to keep utility bills low. The Habitat program allowed the family to pay for the property at cost, with a no-interest mortgage.
This past weekend was the family’s first in the rehabilitated house. Kasiriba says it’s good to be home. “As Christians, we say we are going to live in paradise,” Kasiriba says, “so right now, I feel like I’m in paradise, me and my wife.”
Finding a home was a big goal for the family. Kasiriba says the next be step is getting back the job he had overseas as a teacher.
By Forrest Saunders, KCRG, Cedar Rapids