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Wall-raising celebrates new home for Sudanese family

Wall-raising celebrates new home for Sudanese family

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When 15-year-old Murtada Salih finally gets his own bedroom, he's going to paint it and put a TV in it. And he's pretty excited.

Right now, Murtada shares a room with his brother. But thanks to Habitat for Humanity, Murtada and his family will be moving into a new house in the near future. And not only will the North Star High School student get his own room, but his family will get a house free of the water issues, dampness and poor insulation that plague their current home.

Saturday morning, Murtada and his family, who are from Sudan, got to see the first walls raised on their new home. Habitat for Humanity volunteers, staff, homeowners and sponsors congregated at 11th Street and Garber Avenue for the wall-raising ceremony about 9 a.m. Approximately 50 people came to help out, see friends and hear the Rev. Thomas Dummermuth, associate pastor at Eastridge Presbyterian Church, give the blessing.

When the first slew of volunteers arrived Saturday at 8 a.m., the construction site looked like little more than a foundation. But by 9 a.m., walls were up. And by the afternoon, the site looked like a house.

Tom Scott, 85, has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for 19 years. He puts in at least 20 hours a week of work. He said the best part of any build is exactly what Murtada is looking forward to: the kids seeing their rooms for the first time.

"Really, seeing the children is the big payoff for me," he said. "They'll take you by the hand and show you which room is theirs." 

Salih's father, Ahmed Haroun, moved to Lincoln in 2003. Salih and his mother, Fatima Haroun, and siblings Mohamed Salih, 9, Musa Salih, 4, and Malak Salih, 1, joined him in 2006. 

Haroun said he was happy to see the house coming along, and he is thankful to Habitat for Humanity and its volunteers. He works at Tri-Con Industries Ltd., and his wife works as a cook at Valentino's. 

"My parents work very hard to support us," Murtada said. 

Each Habitat for Humanity family has a unique story, said Sandy Wacker, the organization's family support coordinator. 

Murtada's family was selected to get a new home last October. The selection process is extensive and focuses on income, need and willingness and ability to put in required building hours, said Michelle Williamson, the Habitat for Humanity Lincoln/Lancaster County executive director. Homeowners are required to put in hundreds of hours of work, or "sweat equity," on the home being built for them or another Habitat for Humanity home, she said. It's sort of like a down payment.

Once the home is built, the homeowners buy it from the organization. Habitat for Humanity is the lender, providing no-interest loans to the families, Wacker said. 

Houses usually take four months to be built. They broke ground on the 11th Street and Garber Avenue house back in early February.

There are about five homes built per year. Only three or four families are chosen to get homes each year, but about 50 apply, Williamson said. Habitat For Humanity Lincoln/Lancaster County has built 138 houses.

Most of the volunteers on Saturday were from Eastridge Presbyterian Church, but some were from other churches or just signed up on their own. And there are those who, like Scott, come every week.

"It's a very rewarding effort," Scott said. "It's both self-satisfying and certainly a worthy purpose to help families." 

Read the writer at 402-473-2655.


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