Roxanne Fairconnetue: ‘This is going to be MY house’ -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Roxanne Fairconnetue: ‘This is going to be MY house’

Roxanne Fairconnetue, 37, cherishes a prayer-box necklace that her children gave her during the family’s displacement.

Roxanne Fairconnetue wears a silver prayer-box necklace that her children gave her during their long displacement from Hurricane Katrina.

“My wish was to get a house,” she said, gently holding the tiny charm. “Now I never, ever take this off.”

Fairconnetue, 37, was born in Waveland. Having lived through a number of hurricane warnings, she had been reluctant to evacuate for Katrina.

“I really didn’t want to leave,” she said. “And I didn’t think we’d be gone that long. I just took the kids and some clothes. That was it.”

After the storm destroyed the apartment she shared with her three children, the family hit the road, spending time with friends and relatives in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Minnesota before finally coming back to Waveland in January 2008.

A certified nurse’s aide, Fairconnetue now works at a nursing home in Gulfport.

“I love it,” she said, acknowledging that the job can be challenging. “You have to really love your residents. You have to have that caring heart.”

She and her two youngest children--ages 5 and 6--call a FEMA trailer home now, until their Habitat house is completed in this year’s Carter Work Project. Her oldest daughter attends school in Louisville, Kentucky.

Fairconnetue has already fulfilled her sweat-equity obligations on her four-bedroom, two-bath house in the Diamondhead community. On a recent brilliant spring day, she takes an impromptu strut across the raised foundation of her new home.

“This is going to be MY house,” she said, almost in disbelief. “It just feels so good to say that.”

Affiliate Information:
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi: 41 houses for Carter Project 2008

Hancock County in southwestern Mississippi bore the full fury of Hurricane Katrina when it made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, at high tide. A storm surge of 30 feet nearly obliterated the thriving coastal communities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland.

Two and a half years later, the extent of the damage is still breathtaking. The tortuously slow process of rebuilding is most striking in Waveland, where newly constructed million-dollar homes sit beside unpaved roads. Flat portable septic tanks in the front yards attest to just how much work remains to be done on the infrastructure.

“It has taken a horrific toll on the people here,” said Wendy McDonald, executive director of Bay-Waveland Habitat for Humanity. She points to a partially rebuilt, abandoned house: “See that house? You can tell they started rebuilding but ran out of money … or gave up hope.”

Bay-Waveland HFH was formally incorporated in January 2008, but staff members and volunteers had already built 50 houses as part of a special disaster recovery project based at Metro Jackson HFH. Moving forward, the Bay-Waveland affiliate has set the goal of building 40 houses a year.

For this year’s Carter Project, the affiliate will build houses with 41 families.