A Home for the Holidays

This is a project that AJ worked on last summer.


by Nicole Bennett Engler

When Marta Bokiniec migrated to America in 2002, she yearned for a fresh start at life and a more hopeful future for her 5-year old son, Kacper, who was born with special needs. After 11 years of patiently waiting for a visa, she was excited to leave Poland to be closer to her family who had recently moved to Minnesota.
Life in Poland was far from easy for Marta and her son. they lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her mother and Kacper’s father. Living up nearly 50 steps on the second floor of the apartment building, Marta struggled helping Kacper in and out of their home in his wheelchair.
Unfortunately, the education system was not much better. Kindergarten for children with disabilities was not available in their area. As a result, Marta was unable to work. She felt hopeless and helpless. She knew that if they stayed, Kacper would grow up deprived of the education that he deserved during this important developing stage of his life. As a mother, Marta knew that her son deserved more.
Upon arriving in the U.S., Marta felt embraced by a new world of opportunity. “We had finally arrived in America – the country that hundreds of thousands of people all over the world dream about, ” says Marta. “Americans do not realize how lucky they are to be born here.”medium_100_3071.2.jpg

New Country, New Home
While Marta was looking for affordable housing options, a friend recommended Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity (RAHH). It was a conversation that changed her life.
She immediately applied for a RAHH home. After not being selected the first time she applied in 2004, the persistent mother re-applied in 2005, to find that she was eligible for a home.
Marta was excited that she and Kacper would finally have their own home. “i felt unbelievably lucky – I couldn’t believe that this was happening to us,” says Marta. “It was like we had won the lottery.”
After volunteering 50 hours for another RAHH home, Marta began helping make plans for her new home in southeast Rochester. Construction crews broke ground on her birthday, April 18,2006. While she remains busy balancing full time work at Mayo Clinic, English classes for nights a week and Kacper’s activities, Marta is devoted to spending as much time as possible helping with the construction of her new home.
“It’s been very exciting to be able to help build my own house, ” says Marta. “I’ve truly put my heart into every drop of sweat and every nail that I have Pounded.” Not knowing the fist thing about building houses, she jokingly adds that she has been getting into trouble by asking too many questions, but she just wants to make sure that everything is going well.
Marta says her involvement with the RAHH home ownership process has helped her learn a lot about herself and the community. “It’s obvious that the Rochester community truly cares for others,” she says. “It helps us feel welcome here.”
Marta is grateful to the organization for its overwhelming support. In addition to helping provide a permanent roof over their heads, Marta says RAHH has gone above and beyond by modifying the house plans to meet Kacper’s needs, including a handicapped-accessible bathrooms, a ramp to the front porch and an exercise room. She says RAHH’s devoted staff and volunteers,the organization’s Youth United program and the generous community area all helping to make this dream a reality.
“This whole process has been a life-changing experience,” says Marta. “Habitat for Humanity is truly making a difference in the lives of many families in the Rochester area, including mine.”
Planning to move in my Thanksgiving, Marta is excited to have a home for the holidays. “I will forever have a special place in my heart for this home because it is everything that I have – my freedom, my independence and my new life,” says Marta.
In addition, the mother is grateful for the new chance at life for Kacper, who celebrated his ninth birthday last July at the construction site of their new home. Outside of attending fourth grate at Sunset Terrace Elementary School, he enjoys horseback riding and gymnastics.

Building Homes and Dreams
Marta’s family is one of many in the Rochester area who have been touched by RAHH’s Christian ministry. For 16 years, the organization has been assisting community members who are financially challenged by helping them build simple, affordable houses.
RAHH was established in 1990 to meet the growing need for affordable housing in the Rochester area. Since its inception, the organization’s volunteer network has helped build ho8uses for 50 families in the Rochester area. It is funded by individual, church and business contributions.
A volunteer committee selects homeowners based on their need, willingness to partner and ability to pay. In return for help building a home, owners agree to provide 200 hours of sweat equity for their or other RAHH homes. Once their home is built, owners are responsible for paying the 20- interest-free mortgage offered through the organization.
On average, from application to occupation, the home ownership process takes about 15 months. medium_ajatdedication.jpgThe home dedication ceremony is a milestone for homeowners, including their family, friends and RAHH staff and volunteers. A much-earned celebration, the ceremony included a house blessing, a passing of the house key to the family, and a closing on the house, during which the family signs the mortgage and officially takes ownership. medium_100_3088.jpg medium_100_3083.2.jpgAfter a ribbon-cutting, the family invites guests into the home for a tour, refreshments and fellowship.
“It’s a very emotional time for all, especially the grateful adults and the happy-dancing, clapping children,” says Donna Hoffman, RAHH office manager.
After families move into their home, some keep in touch with RAHH until they are financially stable. But most remain in contact and have become lifelong friends with staff and volunteers. “It’s kind of like being a parent – watching them grow and being able to make it on their own,” says Donna. “RAHH staff and volunteers feel so grateful to be a part of an organization that helps so many hard working, deserving families help themselves.”
For more information on Rochester Area Habitat for Humanity, visit http://www.RAHH.org or call 507-252-0849.

Marta’s home was the first built by the Habitat for Humanity’s Youth United program in Minnesota. Youth United raised $40,000 to help sponsor Marta’s house. One activity was a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s. Marta and Kacper brought family and friends.
Youth United
Youth United is a Habitat for Humanity program in which community youth ages 5 through 25 fully sponsor and build a home with a local family.
Younger youth are the leaders, planners, fundraisers and builders, while volunteers ages 16 to 25 do the hands on construction.
For more information on RAHH’s Youth Untied program call 507-252-0849 ext. 5 or visit http://www.rahh.org/youthunited.htm


~ by mamadubs on December 3, 2006.

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