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Mama, it’s perfect!

 

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Malikah Samuel and her seven-year-old daughter India live in a two-bedroom home on Thrivent Lane in Long Beach, Mississippi, built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

   

Malikah Samuel, 25, and her 7-year-old daughter, India, live in a two-bedroom home on Thrivent Lane in Long Beach, Mississippi, built in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Samuel, a certified nurse’s assistant, had lived in a small house with her daughter and 10 other relatives since Hurricane Katrina destroyed their apartment in Gulfport.

“We didn’t evacuate,” Samuel said quietly. “We really didn’t think it was going to be that bad, so we stayed. I’ll never do it again.”

At the height of the storm’s fury, Samuel and her young daughter hunkered down with a few relatives and friends in a building with no windows.

“We would look out the doors occasionally and see pieces of houses blowing down the street,” she said. “It was horrible.”

Samuels’ new house in Biloxi is built on stilts, exceeding the state’s minimum height requirements for new buildings. She surprised herself, she said, by how much she enjoyed taking part in the construction.

“It was a journey,” she said, laughing. “I had fun during the whole process. I never thought I would help build a house, but I enjoyed it. My favorite part was just knowing I was a part of something this important.”

Samuels works with mentally disabled clients at South Mississippi Regional Center in Long Beach, about a five-minute drive from her new home.

“I love the work,” she said. “There’s no money in it, but I love it.”

Samuels closed on her Habitat house on a Friday, and her daughter returned home from spending the weekend with her father two days later to see her new, ultra-pink bedroom for the first time.

“I made sure I finished her room before she came home,” Samuels said. “She was almost speechless. She just said, ‘Mama, it’s perfect!’ ”

Since Hurricane Katrina, India had been scared to sleep in her own bed.

“She would try to sleep by herself, but in the middle of the night, she would end up coming into bed with me,” her mom said. “But now she’s staying all night in her own bed. She’s really happy.”

A wooden plaque over India’s bed offers a little extra inspiration: “Dream a nice dream.”