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‘It’s really hitting home’

The Kouassi-Harper family stands before their completed home on dedication day.

 

Tonya discovers the simple pleasure of walking barefoot across her newly installed carpet.

 

Tonya Harper and Koffi Kouassi looked forward to moving into their new home for a long time. Their previous apartment was too small for such large family to be comfortable in, and apartment living wasn’t ideal for the children. Koffi, 10, and twins Ayah and N’dah, 8, have an energy level typical of children their ages. They had to walk down three flights of stairs to go outside, and there was no safe place for them to play.

The family also battled bad plumbing and a hilltop location that made the area muddy and dangerous after hard rains. But their new Habitat home is sturdy, safe and—most importantly—theirs. It comes with new Whirlpool appliances, its own backyard and plenty of room for this large family to live together and grow. Tonya is not worried about the reputation her new neighborhood has—she’s ready to “get out there and witness.”

”This new house will mean more security, more stability for my kids,” she says. “They’ll know it’s their home and that nobody can kick us out of it. And one day it will be theirs. We’re happy to be able to leave them something.”

Tonya’s and Koffi’s family knows the meaning of hard work, so their labor at raising their home’s walls, putting up siding and painting is just a small part of this family’s effort to carve out a good life for themselves. Koffi works two cooking jobs in order to pay the rent on their four-bedroom apartment and to send money back to his daughters in the Ivory Coast. Tonya also works as an assistant manager at Goodwill.

The children are hard workers, too. Koffi and Tonya honor this, placing their children’s education as their top priority. Tonya’s oldest son Kenny is a scholarship student studying engineering at Charleston Southern University, and daughter Jessica is deciding whether to attend Spellman College or dental school in just a few weeks. Jeminata, an honor student, is starting high school this month and is excited about cheerleading at her school’s first football game of the season.

”I’m looking forward to my older brother maybe coming home,” Jeminata says. “To making some memories in the new house. My first car, my first date…”

The family will also be able to share their home with friends and family. They have already started thinking about the barbecues, Thanksgivings and other get-togethers they’ll have now that they have a home they can be proud of. Tonya is also planning a garden with vegetables and flowers, and N’da hopes that his mother will let him help mow the lawn sometimes.

”It’s really hitting home…that were getting our own home!” Tonya says.