Dessie originally came from Ethiopia and spent some time in a refugee camp in Uganda until he was accepted by the government of Uganda and given a refugee mandate. After 16 years of suffering through refugee life, in 2007, he was sponsored by Knox Metropolitan United Church. He came to Regina with his 5-year-old son. Shortly after being in Regina and taking English classes, he started working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority as a continuing care aid. To become certified, he could work there while taking the continuing care aid course through SIAST.
In 2011 he became a Canadian Citizen. In 2013 he applied for the Nursing Program at SAIST and was accepted. He knew that accomplishing this would be challenging as a single father. Still, he worked very hard, knowing it would help give his son and himself a better life in Canada. His dream was to graduate as a nurse, get a good job, buy a house, and proceed to plan for their future.
The Next Chapter
When he started his second year of nursing study, tragic and shocking news came from back home in Ethiopia. His elder sister and her husband died in a car accident, leaving their four children without a guardian. The children were also travelling with their parents, but they survived, except one had a terrible back injury. These children don’t have other aunties or uncles who can care for them except for Dessie. From that point, he decided to discontinue his studies to work full-time and help his sister’s children. He took the responsibility of caring for them by sending them money through the temporarily assigned legal guardian. The following steps would be to figure out how to get them to Canada and apply to be their legal guardian soon.
Dessie applied to Immigration Canada to sponsor his four orphan nieces and nephews to come to Canada and live with him. His application was accepted for all children, which was a significant accomplishment. Two children could come to Regina before the other two, making the transition hard but manageable. The other two children had to stay behind in Ethiopia together due to the back injury of the youngest child. During his immigration process, the youngest boy’s medical result showed that his back injury had nerve and muscle complications. His mobility will be affected while he grows up unless he gets proper medical attention. When he gets older, he may have difficulty walking up and downstairs. Dessie was told he would require a wheelchair-accessible home before the other two children could join them in Canada. Dessie was sad and upset as he was unsure how to get an accessible home due to the lack of options and financial situation. Ultimately, he could not save for a house downpayment with the many loans and students he had taken on for his schooling.
Dessie decided to go back to his nursing school studies in the meantime while he tried to figure out his housing situation. The three-bedroom apartment he lived in with the three children in downtown Regina was old and poorly maintained—cracks in the walls, heating and window issues, and infested with mice and Cockroaches. The building they lived in was also unsafe. The security system at the entrance door would not work, so anyone could open and enter the building. They found numerous homeless people inside, sometimes with knives and potential weapons, sleeping in the front door and hallways. Dessie and the children were extremely scared, and this living situation was not ideal with the children involved.
Applying for the Habitat for Humanity Saskatchewan Homeownership Program
After thinking hard about his situation, Dessie applied to the Habitat for Humanity Saskatchewan homeownership program. After going through the application process and supplying Habitat with all of the required financial documentation, and then having a home visit, he was accepted into the program. Habitat was able to build Dessie and his family a four-bedroom home with a full basement that was wheelchair accessible.
Once Dessie was able to confirm with Immigration Canada that he had a stable and accessible home, he was able to apply to have the other two children join their family in Regina. As of 2021, all the children are together in Regina, safe and sound. All his children are happy and confident to invite their friends to come and play and hang out in their new home. They are so excited to be together in the same house and now have a sense of stability. Dessie is happy to be a homeowner while paying down a mortgage to help him build equity for his children’s future, which he never thought would be achievable. “After all these children have been through, providing them with stability and a safe neighbourhood is a dream come true” – Dessie.
Dessie’s life has also changed throughout his homeownership journey, especially now that he has more joy and confidence. Dessie is no longer a single dad and has an addition to his family, a beautiful baby girl! Congratulations are in order! “Homeownership with Habitat has given me blessings” – Dessie.
Watch a clip we took of Dessie as he tells us how he feels about being a homeowner:
Be a Hero Today!
Thank you to the many donors, volunteers, and partners who helped Dessie and his family achieve their homeownership dream and the safety they deserved.
If you want to be a hero in a family’s life, like Dessie, please donate to Habitat Saskatchewan today!
Any donation helps our purpose by empowering Saskatchewan families through safe, decent and affordable homeownership.