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Success starts at home -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Success starts at home

Lucy Okonokhua Jackson and her children (from left), Teddy, Maggie, Laura, Selina and Precious, are quick to give credit to their Habitat house for
all the success that has followed. ©Habitat for Humanity International/Ben Skudlarek

Investing wisely in a family pays endless dividends
By Soyia Ellison

   
   
 

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When Lucy Okonokhua Jackson and her five children moved into their new Habitat for Humanity home in 1997, she chose a bedroom for herself, another for her son and a third for her daughters.

The fourth bedroom she turned into a library.

That little room, with its books and computer and L-shaped desk, spoke volumes about the value she placed on education.

And it’s clear the kids took their mother’s message to heart: The three oldest — Teddy, Maggie and Laura — are all graduates of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and the two youngest — Selina and Precious — are currently students there.

Their academic success — a remarkable feat for any family — is all the more impressive in light of their early history.

A difficult introduction


Lucy brought her young children, ranging from age 7 to barely a year old, to Atlanta, Georgia, from Nigeria in 1993 to escape the political strife that plagued her homeland.

“It was just too much,” she said. “Riot today, riot tomorrow. School closing today, school closing tomorrow.”

She had attended college in the U.S. in the late 1970s and early ’80s and believed she could give her children a better future here.

But the transition wasn’t easy.

New to the country and newly single, Lucy couldn’t afford a place to live. She and the children drifted from shelter to shelter before landing in a crime-ridden public housing project. Eventually, she found work with the Women, Infants and Children program and moved the family into a two-bedroom apartment in a safer place. But because of occupancy restrictions, she could list only two children on the lease.

“If you had too many children, you could not live in that apartment complex,” she recalled. “I had to sneak them in and out.”

Terrified of being evicted, she began searching for better housing.

“I couldn’t live like that anymore,” she said. “I wanted a place where I could be free, where I didn’t have to hide my children.”

She found that place with the help of Habitat for Humanity. And through the organization, she also found a friend who would change her family’s future.

Next: ‘Something special about this family’
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