When Beshir Ibnaouf came to North Carolina from Sudan in 1997, it was the first step in a long journey of building a new life for his family. His wife, Maarif Abbas, and infant daughter, Romesa, joined him two years later. The family has grown with the birth of four more children.
The family will have a new home in April thanks to their own hard work and a helping hand from Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro, Well•Spring and the UNCG community. A team of UNCG volunteers kicked off construction on Thursday.
Habitat houses are partnerships between families and the community. A sponsor, in this case Well•Spring, a not-for-profit LifeCare retirement community located in Greensboro, has donated the cost of initial construction and materials. About 360 UNCG students, faculty, staff and alumni will work on the house before it is dedicated in early April.
Habitat acts as a “bank” to give the family an interest-free mortgage on the house, which the family is required to repay. In addition, recipient families are required to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” labor – 200 hours on someone else’s house and 100 hours on their own. Habitat homes must be owner occupied.
Beshir worked as a taxi driver during his first years in N.C., but he has worked as a printer operator at Banner Pharmacaps for the past six years. Romesa is now 14 and excelling at Guilford Middle School. She tutors younger students in math and is part of the school’s yearbook staff, school newspaper staff and photography club.
Mohamed, a 10-year-old son, and Rowah, a 7-year-old daughter, are enrolled at Jefferson Elementary School, where Mohamed is part of the school’s Safety Patrol. Hassan, a 3-year-old boy, and Noon, a 2-year-old girl, keep the family home lively. Beshir and Maarif beam with pride when discussing their children, whom they refer to as their “treasure.”
“The Ibnaouf family is a very good fit for Habitat’s goals,” said Lillie Brown-Doggett, director of family services for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro. “They are hardworking, financially responsible and dedicated to building a better life for their children.”
The family has just completed its required work hours on other homes. Both Beshir and Maarif worked on their own house Thursday. The lot in northeast Greensboro had only a bare concrete slab In the morning, but by the end of the day almost all of the first-floor framing, the wooden skeleton of exterior and interior walls, had been nailed in place.
Owning a home will not be the end of the family’s journey. “Romesa plans to become a dermatologist,” Beshir says, “so now we’re starting to investigate medical schools in N.C.”
Construction on the Ibnaouf home will continue on Thursdays and Saturdays, October-April. Habitat professionals train and supervise all volunteers, so no construction skills are needed. In addition to helping with construction, there will be opportunities to volunteer by providing lunch for the construction volunteers, doing morning set-up and other tasks.
Everyone in the UNCG community is encouraged to participate. Contact Beth Hens at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Anita Tesh and Dan Nonte
Photograph by David Wilson