The Nigere and Bayisa family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

The Nigere and Bayisa family


Kitessa Nigere has already been working to rehabilitate his family’s house in North Minneapolis’ Hawthorne neighborhood. “We're excited,” he said. “I like working with volunteers. When I talk to them, they’re so supportive and appreciative of me and my family.”

©Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

A rising tide of support

During an overcast, cool Saturday morning in September, Kitessa Nigere stubbornly attacked some land that needed leveling in front of a two-story house in North Minneapolis’ Hawthorne neighborhood.

The house will soon be rehabilitated in partnership with Twin Cities Habitat. When finished, it will become home for Nigere’s family.

He wants everything to be perfect, and for as much prep work to be finished as possible before volunteers arrive in great numbers for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

His house is one of seven that will be built or rehabbed in this neighborhood during the Carters’ volunteer event.

“It’s getting there,” Nigere said, taking a break. “It just takes work.”

Nigere has already spent a great deal of time in his neighborhood-to-be, volunteering on his family’s home, walking around, and meeting some of his new neighbors. He loves the chance to connect with the volunteers on the site. On this Saturday morning, he was joined by a friend and a brand-new AmeriCorps member from Twin Cities Habitat.

“I like working with volunteers,” Nigere said. “When I talk to them, they’re so supportive and appreciative of me and my family. They’ve encouraged me to be strong and to keep up with school.”

The encouragement is appreciated. He is balancing a demanding schedule these days in between his sweat-equity volunteering. He works at the Minneapolis Hilton Hotel but is also going to school to develop a new career option as a nurse’s assistant.

Throughout all of his efforts, he keeps his growing family in mind. His wife, Ebise Bayisa, gave birth to the young couple’s second child in July.

The children also served as the couple’s primary motivation for applying to partner with Twin Cities Habitat. After a friend told him about Habitat, Nigere said, he couldn’t stop thinking about the opportunity it would afford his family.

When the family got the call that they had been accepted and would be part of the Carter Work Project, Nigere remembers repeating: “Are you serious? What are you saying? We are qualified?”

In addition to the support of Habitat staff and volunteers, the emigrants from Ethiopia have been thankful for the emotional and physical help from their close group of church friends. And just as Nigere volunteers his time at church by preaching and leading Bible study, his friends from the church have said they will volunteer to help this rehabbed home become a comfortable gathering place for family and friends.

Beyond the space itself, this new home will give this family a great opportunity to look toward the future. Everyone is eager to settle in, and Nigere is eager to continue saving for his children’s education. Though he has already started a college fund, he says the arrival of a second child has motivated him to do more. That first fund, he said with a laugh, was “only for the first one!”