Habitat for Humanity Sault Ste. Marie & Area (HFHSSMA) is excited to announce the selection of the next Habitat Homeowner family, who will be moving into their new, fully accessible Blake Avenue home later this year once it is built.
Ahmad Barakat, along with his wife Manal, and three young sons, Zen, Zayd, and Amir, will become the organization’s 15th Habitat Homeowners after their long search for a wheelchair-accessible home.
“We’re so excited to partner with the Barakat family in helping them purchase the affordable and accessible Habitat Home of their dreams. Their resilience and perseverance in their pursuit of homeownership has been nothing short of inspiring,” states Allyson Schmidt, Vice Chair of Habitat’s Board of Directors and Chair of the Family Services Committee.
With help from the United Nations, Ahmad and his family moved to Canada from Lebanon in 2016. They had fled Syria as refugees of the civil war a few years prior. Ahmad notes that he and his family have “worked hard to adjust to living in Canada and learning English.”
While their drafty, two-bedroom apartment is too small for their family of five, Ahmad’s spinal cord injury made finding work – and thus getting a traditional mortgage for a more accessible home – particularly difficult:
“We have always been dreaming to have our own home, where we can raise our kids. [Due to] my health situation and [our income], I was unable to get a mortgage. [It was] not easy to find a job as I am in a wheelchair. Finally, I found a job, but unfortunately even with that I didn’t get the mortgage that we need, and Manal has to take care of the boys.”
The family’s small apartment is difficult for Ahmad to navigate in his manual wheelchair, and the family’s three young sons (grades 4, 2, and JK) are sharing one bedroom.
“The current home is very small for three boys,” Ahmad states, “they have to share one small room, so they don’t have enough space to play.”
Ahmad notes that, over the years, his primary focus was how to get a home, which was a frustrating endeavour. Now, he says, “[Getting a house from Habitat] will give us space to think about other things, like developing and progressing ourselves.”
The family was excited to learn of their acceptance into Habitat’s Affordable Homeownership Program. Ahmad has applied multiple times over the years, finally meeting the organization’s eligibility requirements for their Blake Avenue project in 2022.
“To everyone [wanting a home and having] a lot of difficulties and challenges, Habitat for Humanity is the best thing to do. No matter how many times [you’ve applied] for it, don’t give up and keep trying,” Ahmad encourages.
Manal told Habitat that the first thing they will do in their new home is throw a “big celebration” and invite all of their friends, noting that this opportunity is the “biggest and greatest thing to happen to us.”
The Barakat family is looking forward to completing their 500 hours of voluntary service at the Habitat ReStore – a requirement for purchasing their new home.
“I am so pleased that the Barakat family continued to apply for our program despite not being selected the first couple times. Habitat’s program is designed to assist families and individuals that are ready for the responsibility of homeownership but have challenges with traditional lenders. The program’s criteria help to ensure the families selected are successful in their homeownership endeavours. It’s difficult because everyone deserves a safe, affordable home, but not everyone is ready to own and maintain a home. The Barakat’s are ready, and Habitat is excited to work with them,” explains Katie Blunt, Executive Director.
In partnership with SalDan Construction Group, Habitat will break ground on their Blake Avenue build this spring. The home should be complete by the end of 2022.
As a non-profit, HFHSSMA relies on the generosity of volunteers, donors, and corporate sponsors to achieve its mission. If your business is interested in donating to, or sponsoring, the Blake Avenue build, please reach out to Chelsey Foucher, Fundraising & Marketing Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this opportunity.