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What Home Really Means

Ten-year-old Edie Schnell's award-winning essay benefits Habitat Southern Alberta.

Words by Phillip Jordan

Published on Mar. 15, 2012

A grade-four student in Calgary, Alberta, Edelawit “Edie” Schnell views her childhood a bit differently than most of her classmates. She lived in Ethiopia until she was 7 years old, when she was adopted by a Canadian family.

Edie thinks her perspective is what helped her come in first — out of 3,200 entries — in a national essay-writing competition in Canada. As the winner of the fifth annual Genworth Canada “Meaning of Home” writing contest, Edie got to choose a Canadian Habitat for Humanity affiliate to receive a $60,000 donation from the contest sponsor. She selected Habitat Southern Alberta. 

“With all that I have been through, home is different to me than a lot of other kids,” Edie wrote in her winning essay. 

There’s a big difference between a house and a home, Edie says. And she wrote her essay to show that she has always felt the love of family, regardless of the shape of her shelter.

The annual essay contest is open to students in grades 4-6. Five runners-up designated a Habitat affiliate to receive a $5,000 grant:

Jacob Frigault: Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Quebec
Sofia Vavaroutsos: Woodbridge, Ontario
Kate Barkhouse: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Caitlin Sankaran-Wee: Vancouver, British Columbia
Katie McDonald: Wellesley, Ontario

Genworth Canada and Habitat Canada are publishing a commemorative book of winning and finalist entries from the contest's first five years. All proceeds will be donated to Habitat Canada affiliates. Below is Edie Schnell’s winning essay:

Edie Schnell

Hi! My name is Edie.

I was born in Ethiopia and lived there until I was 7. In Ethiopia you do not have much food, water, clothes or shelter. Every day I would walk to the river and stand at the edge getting water in my bucket. Then I would walk all the way home with the bucket on my head so I could use the water to wash clothes, faces, dishes and give water to plants. At the end of the day I would use the water to make dinner. We would all sit together and have a great time! I did not go to school, only my brother did. In Ethiopia most girls stay at home and let their brothers go to school. There was a lot of love in my family but I was having a hard life.

My Birth Mom told me that she was sending me to a place where they would take care of me better. When I was at the place, Mom adopted me and brought me to Canada to live a better life. Now I am in a perfect school with friends. I am in grade four and I have the best education I could possibly imagine. Water comes out of a tap and I know it is clean and safe. I am having a great life and I never want to leave it because of all the love everyone is giving me.

With all that I have been through, home is different to me than to a lot of other kids. Home means a person, place or thing that makes you feel good when you are around them. It is a place where people love you and you love them back. Home means a person you can cry on when you are down. Home means a person you can tell secrets to. Home means a person you can jump up and down with when you are excited. Sometimes things in life can be hard but having a good home can make a difference.

Home means fun, love and care!

Edie, Grade 4
Calgary, Alberta