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Turning hopes into homes



Cornelia and Andreea in their old home—a small, cold and dark place.

After high school Cornelia Les stayed at home to care for her sick father as her parents had separated. She thought she found a special someone but luck was not on her side: her boyfriend left her when she got pregnant, and her relatives kicked her out of the house as soon as her father died. They did allow her to live in a 12sqm room next to the stable—the only home her daughter Andreea Diana has known ever since.

Cornelia works in the near-by town of Beius, waking up every morning at 5 am to catch the bus taking her to the factory. She is back home at 7 pm. When her daughter was small, Cornelia had to leave her in the nursery in another town and see her only for weekends. When the girl grew up, the dreaded question came: “Why don’t we have a nice place to live, Mum?” And Cornelia had no answer but to keep praying.

Two years ago, Cornelia read in the papers about the death of a friend, a Habitat homeowner. She, too, applied for a Habitat house and was selected to partner with the organization. She put in hours of hard work, unloading tiles and carrying cement despite her hip condition. At the house dedication, she was too overwhelmed to say anything—she just embraced her daughter and cried.

Cornelia is now getting ready to move into her new home before Christmas. It will be the happiest Christmas she’s known in many years.

The story of the Halajyan family is typical of many Armenians shortchanged by the economic collapse after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Freshly married, Hovhannes and Ruzanna took a loan and began building a house for their new family—but in less than a year, inflation made their money all but worthless and construction had to stop. When their two boys were born, the family tried to make a home for itself in one room of the unfinished house, but the conditions were bad for the children’s health.


The Halajyans in their new Habitat home.

In 1992 they were allocated a 6sq m. building to run their own small grocery store but they transformed it into a dwelling. It was small and cold but it had a roof—more than their half-built house. The Halajyans spent 13 years there.

“The best period of life, the childhood of my children passed in a dark and cold place. When we were getting married, we were sure that our children would have the best childhood, the best education and all they deserve as any other child, as any parent dreams for their child. But every evening when we walked kilometers from our gardens, where we grew grapes to sell, to the ‘shop-house’ we were counting the steps. Each of them meant how many years we still need to become closer to having our own house.”

Today Halajyans family is decorating the Christmas tree in their first ever house during these last 13 years. This year they will finally have a different wish: “Let each child in the world has its own place to play with toys; let each mother keep an eye on her children with a peace of mind; let each father in the world feel stronger by the successes of his children.”

When Ernis and Sairajan Abdyldaev started a family, they did not expect that finding a decent place to live would be such a challenge. The young family had to move four times in four years before they received an unfinished apartment from the municipality. It was in bad shape, with no doors or windows, but they worked hard to renovate it.


“I’m so happy to see my children crawling on the wooden warm floor,” says new Habitat homeowner, Ernis Abdylaev.

A few years later the family grew bigger and the Abdylaevs needed more space for the four children and themselves. They sold the apartment, but before they could buy another one the prices of property rose so sharply that they couldn’t even buy their old place back. They were, in fact, left homeless. They could only afford a small 12sq m. hut outside of Bishkek, the capital city, with no running water or sanitation, and with a dirt floor.

Ernis was determined to build something better for his children. He started erecting walls for a three-room house but couldn’t keep up with the rising costs. He desperately needed support. In 2004 he learned about Habitat for Humanity from a TV program and hurried to apply. He was selected and in May 2005 the family moved into their two-bedroom house.

“I’m so happy to see my children crawling on the wooden warm floor, doing their homework on the table,” says Ernis.

“Habitat has given me a hand, when even my relatives weren’t able to help me. Now I have a motivation to move further.”

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Europe and Central Asia.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in Europe and Central Asia.

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