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More than hope -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

More than hope

A Phoenix family grows into their Habitat house.
Text and photos by Steffan Hacker


Monica Echevarria and daughter Alondra read together on the front porch of their Habitat home.


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See pictures of the family before and after moving into their Habitat home.


View an audio slideshow
This flash video/slideshow tells the story of the Echevarria family through photos and audio commentary.


“I didn’t feel worthy enough to be able to own a home because of all the struggles and trials I’ve gone through,” says Monica Echevarria.

Dealing with the frustration of applying for subsidized housing, living in her car at one point, she saw a commercial for the local Habitat affiliate. “It was just something I had to try. When you have that gut feeling, they say don’t ignore it. I would have to say it was God really talking to me.”

When I first met Monica in 2004, she shared a single bedroom with her three young children in a tiny apartment in Phoenix.

Selah, the baby of the family, then only a few months old, slept with her mother while 2-year-old sister Alondra and 5-year-old brother Adrian shared another small twin bed. I was impressed by how Monica had created such a warm and cozy home for her children despite the cramped conditions. Nonetheless, she says, “I knew I had to make a change.”

On the day her new Habitat roof went up, I visited again. Monica brought the kids to the site early that morning to watch from a safe distance, saying that it was so “they would see people help us.” And then, despite her fear of heights, she worked right alongside the volunteers who had come to help.

I looked up the family again in 2005. It was wonderful to see the kids playing in their new yard — even dancing in the living room. Now, four years later, the kids are still dancing. Adrian and Alondra love to jump on their new backyard trampoline. Selah, who is an all-but-grown-up 5 years old, loves to entertain. “Once in a while, we’ll have Dancing With the Stars,” Monica says. “Here, it’s called ‘Dancing With Selah.’”

These days, Monica says, thinking about how she’s become a homeowner gives her more than hope. “It makes you feel like you can do anything.”

More importantly, she says, she hopes her children feel the same way.

Steffan Hacker is a Habitat for Humanity International photographer.