KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Volunteers are coming together to build houses for three different families.
The week-long project kicks-off Saturday, April and finishes with a dedication celebratin April 15 at 12:00 p.m. The homes will be built in the Silver Leaf subdivision, off of Anniversary Lane, in Knoxville.
Knoxville Habitat for Humanity said all three families are part of Knoxville’s Burmese community. They arrived in the United State to pursue religious freedom and a better life for their families and have worked 500 hours “sweat equity” to build and purchase their homes.
Meet the families
Sa and Cherry
Four years ago, Sa and Cherry came to America from Malaysia in pursuit of safety, a better future and the hope of freedom. This couple, originally from Myanmar (formerly Burma), settled in Knoxville and instantly felt at peace with the area.
Many Burmese refugees, like Sa and Cherry, come to the United States to escape political turmoil and religious persecution. Sa says, “Before we came (to the United States), we were always scared. Here, we feel freedom and happiness.”
Since arriving in Knoxville, the couple now have two young children: Victor (age 3) and baby Rosalin. Sa is employed as a factory worker at Denso.
This young family is a part of the Burmese community in Knoxville. These refugees have grown and thrived through the assistance of local non-profits and their strong, close-knit church family. Sa learned of Knoxville Habitat from a church friend that also went through the program and is now a thriving Habitat homeowner.
Currently, Sa and Cherry are raising their children in a very small and crowded two-bedroom apartment. They have experienced suspicious activity in their apartment community and are in desperate need of a neighborhood where Cherry and the children can feel safe and secure, especially when he is away at work. As of right now, they do not feel safe walking outside, especially at night.
Sa and Cherry will live in the same subdivision as several friends from their church family. This is important, as a strong sense of community is essential for the emotional, social and economic success of all Habitat families. Their home will also be near their church location.
Like all Knoxville Habitat families, Sa and Cherry have invested 500 hours of “sweat equity,“ mostly through educational classes that include budgeting, home maintenance and how to be a good neighbor.
Sa proudly says, “Because of Habitat, I now know how to use money … and save money.”
Tun and Kham
Refugees often experience isolation during the beginning of their journey to find freedom and stability, so a sense of community is an aspect that families like Tun and Kham have embraced since arriving in Knoxville two years ago. Through communities provided by the local Burmese ministry, fellow Habitat homebuyers they have met in Habitat classes, and their soon-to-be neighborhood where they will dwell among other Habitat families, Tun and Kham will continue their journey to find strength, stability and self-reliance.
Once Tun arrived in Knoxville, he quickly began working as a cook for a Chinese restaurant on the University of Tennessee campus. And in May of 2015, Tun and Kham became new parents to baby Rooney.
This young family currently lives in a cramped one-bedroom apartment. With plans for more children, they will feel blessed to have more space and give Rooney his own bedroom. They also feel fortunate to be able to invest in a home they can pass on to their children.
Tun says, “I am just so happy to have this home … especially now that I have a baby.”
Kap and Lal
Like the other families building in this year’s Blitz Build, Kap and Lal found Knoxville Habitat through a close-knit church community of Burmese refugees that have come to the U.S. in search of a better life. A life they never experienced before coming to Knoxville, where they have the freedom to worship, work and create a stable future for their children.
Kap and Lal have two children: Bethsabi (age 4) and baby Elizabeth. Kap is employed with a cabinet shop.
This couple has lived in their current apartment for over three years, but it is a cramped one-bedroom space that is even more difficult now that they have grown to a family of four. The children are not able to play outside due to safety (there is no yard, and their apartment complex is only a few steps from a residential street) as well as structure (their apartment is on the second floor where a small child can easily fall).
All three of the 2016 Blitz Build families have similar experiences and children close in age, and they look forward to being able to make their dreams of homeownership come true while also sharing their experiences together with support for one another. Furthermore, they will gather with others in a diverse community of thriving homeowners.