“Mi casa es su casa.”
Translation: My house is your house.
Those heartfelt words were spoken by Juan Pablo on July 6, before he and his family received the keys to his new Welland home. The home dedication ceremony, hosted by Habitat for Humanity Niagara, marked the realization of a dream for Juan, Luz and their three children as they opened the door to their brand new home at 47 Sauer Ave. and welcomed the community inside.
Built as part of the Habitat/Niagara College partnership, this was the second modular home the students built on campus at the Rankin Technology Centre at Niagara College. This past spring, the house was transported in pieces to its permanent site on Sauer Avenue with the help of Empire Transportation and Modern Crane and assembled onsite by the professional framers from Dave Wiens Construction.
Juan spoke about how he and his family who are originally from Colombia, moved to Canada five years ago with their “suitcases filled with dreams.” They moved to Quebec and learned the culture and the French language, before a desire to learn to speak English led them to relocate in Niagara, “the most beautiful region in all of Canada,” he said. He noted how they made their home in Welland where they felt the kindness of the community, and became Canadian citizens after one month.
He thanked Habitat and all those who contributed to building the house, and specifically thanked students, professors and directors at Niagara College. He recalled visiting the College to get the first glimpse of his house while it was under construction.
“You are much more than construction students; you are great artists,” he said.
Construction program coordinator Colin Robinson, who has built 12 houses for Habitat during his 13 years at Niagara College, spoke about the impact the College’s partnership with Habitat has had on him and the many students who have participated in house builds over the years.
“Driving past the 12 homes in Welland that we have been able to touch, I felt like it’s something to be proud of,” he said. “I know our students take something special away; they are not just banging two-by-fours together; they’re building a home.”
For dean of Media, Trades and Technology Misheck Mwaba, who also attended the ceremony, the Habitat build is part of the College’s vision of enriching lives and fulfilling dreams.
“The construction of this home is a testament to what our students can achieve when they are equipped with the tools that a NC applied learning experience provides, in the classroom and beyond,” said Misheck Mwaba, Niagara College dean of Media, Trades and Technology. “We take tremendous pride in the fact that the skills they gained through this project will not only help lead them to career success, but demonstrate the values of hard work and commitment to community that we hope they will carry with them long after they graduate.”
As part of Habitat’s home ownership program, families are required to commit 500 hours of ‘sweat-equity’ helping build their homes alongside Build Day participants who fundraise to be on the build site. Juan and Luz completed their required hours in April and continued to volunteer until the house was finished in early July.
“Having a combination of students and community participants build this house really makes an impact and brings a sense of pride to individuals,” said Alastair Davis, Habitat Niagara’s CEO. “They were all part of something bigger than themselves. They built a solid house for this family to flourish and become self-reliant, while learning unique hands-on training of what it’s like to build a house.”
Habitat doesn’t give its houses to families. Qualified families purchase their Habitat home with an affordable, no-down payment, 0% interest mortgage for 15 years. Homeowners also pay property taxes on their home, contributing to the local economy.
In addition to Niagara College, Habitat thanked all of its home sponsors and partners for their generous support and contributions to this build: The City of Welland; Niagara Region; Niagara Regional Housing; Niagara Association of Realtors; Ontario Power Generation; Genworth Canada; Cotton Inc; Dave Wiens Construction and the Niagara Volunteer Framing Crew, Wine Rack; Alectra; Niagara Casinos; Giant Tiger; Cabico; Empire Transportation; Modern Crane; and Pollard Windows and Doors.