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Australia’s Orange Chapter Dedicates Its First Three Homes In New South Wales

Each Family Contributes Over 500 Hours Of Own Labor Into Building Their House In Eungella Place

ORANGE COUNTY, 16th May 2008: The smiles of three new Habitat home partner families were as bright as the blue sky during a recent home dedication in Orange County, New South Wales, Australia. More than 100 guests shared in the joy of the Bulivou, Ingram and Sutherland/Mackay families, the first home partners of HFH New South Wales’ Orange Chapter in Eungella Place.

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New lease of life: Vanessa Mackay and Leon Sutherland with their son Jose.

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Thankful: Matthew Ingram and wife Heidi with Stephanie and Mat.

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Dreams in store: Isaac Bulivou (second from right) with his wife Paul (second from left) and four of their children – Adrian, Benjamin, Lai Sani and Isaac Junior. Their eldest daughter Daniella is not pictured.

The three homes were handed over to the Habitat home partner families who had each put in more than 500 hours of their own labor into the construction. Along the way, the families had help from various volunteers, including a team of New South Wales University students who shoveled dirt, laid turf, planted trees, mulched gardens and turned the grounds into a verdant setting for the dedication ceremony.

“The effort was especially satisfying given that, of the group of nine volunteers, we had only one guy,” said volunteer Caroline McLaren. “We were particularly impressed by the families’ endurance; after two long years of construction and hard work, they were still out there working on the homes.”

Home partner Isaac Bulivou told a local newspaper, Central Western Daily, that the Habitat project “gave us the chance to achieve something for the family and show the rest of the community what’s possible.”

While the three families come from different backgrounds, they all share the desire for a secure, healthy home where they could live out their dreams.

Looking to the future are Leon Sutherland and Vanessa Mackay who have a two-year-old son Jose. Twenty-seven-year-old Leon, who comes from the aboriginal community, is glad to bid goodbye to the uncertainty of renting. He said: “While I was in gaol, I undertook all the TAFE (Technical and Further Education) courses that were available, using this time to make the best of my situation and to ensure that I could move forward when I was released.” Currently working as a self-employed kitchen installer, he hopes to study aboriginal health with a view of helping his people.

Vanessa, 26, who does part-time work, is also planning to study management in the university and take up a diploma course in education. On becoming Habitat home partners, Vanessa said: “We didn’t think that we had a chance with our background, and kept trying not to get too excited at the idea…we were very surprised and grateful when they told us we had been selected.”

Another family, who spent more than A$100,000 (US$93,670) on rent over ten years, is thankful for a home that they can call their own. Three of the Ingram family – father Matthew, 28, son Mat, 8 and daughter Stephanie, 6, have Sticklers Syndrome that affect their connective tissues. Matthew needs a hip replacement operation soon while eye and hearing problems beset the children.

While wife Heidi was trained as a nurse, she was unable to work full-time because of her family’s health. But she has recently found a job as manager of a video rental store in Orange. Matthew, who is of aboriginal descent, said: “It has all happened at once - getting the house, Heidi getting her new job and my opportunity at the college, we are so fortunate.” Matthew has enrolled in a business studies course in a local community college to facilitate a change a job from his occupation as a construction laborer.

For Isaac Bulivou’s family of seven, the Habitat house means putting to rest the memory of a failed business venture and cramped living conditions in a remote farmhouse. Originally from Fiji, Isaac came to Australia 15 years ago and works in a home for the disabled. His wife Paula, of Lebanese descent, does part-time work in a nursing home for the aged.

Their five children, aged from 16 to five years, are vocal about their dreams. The eldest, Daniella, hopes to study social work in the university. Her twelve-year-old brother Adrian wants to be a speech pathologist while his twin, Benjamin, is inclined to be an architect. Isaac Junior, 13, loves drums and sports while little Lai Sani is most comfortable around animals. In such a world, she “would like to be a vet”, said her father.

In future, Isaac and Paula would like to serve the community. Paula shared: “Our dream is to set up a Christian nursing home in Orange.”

With the home partner families looking up, the way is paved for greater interest in Habitat. As Orange’s mayor John Davis said, the next time a Habitat meeting is held in Orange to seek home partner families, “the Town Hall would be full”.

In addition to friends and relatives, local councilors and volunteers, the chairman of HFH Australia and directors from HFH New South Wales were present at the ceremony organized by the Orange chapter.

Among the speakers on the occasion was Ian Graham, chief executive of PMI Mortgage Insurance, a strong Habitat supporter. In 2006, PMI assisted HFH Australia to launch its affordable housing land trust initiative. The leading Australian mortgage insurer’s partnership with HFH Australia also gained recognition with Habitat winning one of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards for excellence in community business partnerships in 2004 and 2005.

Eventide Homes, CSR, Andreasons Green, Dulux, Selleys, Bunnings were also recognized as partners.

Additional reporting by Diana Logan. Photos by Diana Graham Imagery.