Owning a Habitat home is transformational.

Owning a Habitat home is transformational.

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“Thank you!” These were the words of Gyeong J. when he learned he and his wife, Ok, were accepted into the Habitat for Humanity program last year. But words were not enough. Gyeong cried tears of joy.

The family’s path to homeownership was more of a journey than the average Habitat family. Political refugees from North Korea, the family endured perilous times as they made their escape to America.

No one really owns anything in a Communist country, so the family lived in government-provided housing. Gyeong’s job involved trade with China and Russia, which allowed him to leave the country. When it was discovered he received a Bible and a movie from a foreign missionary, his life was in jeopardy. To avoid death, Gyeong quickly fled to China, having no choice but to leave his wife and his son behind. He gained political asylum at the American Embassy in Thailand after nearly two years on the run. In 2009, he arrived in Orlando, Florida where a distant relative helped him. Gyeong paid a broker to rescue his wife and son, and with help from the embassy in Thailand, they were reunited in Florida in early 2011.

The family moved to Tampa where the couple is employed in dental labs where he creates dental molds and she does finishing (coloring) work. Their son is a junior at a Tampa high school and is in the ROTC with the goal of serving in the U.S. Air Force.

The family is grateful for their new life. “Home means belonging to the U.S.,” said Gyeong. Prior to purchasing their Habitat Hillsborough home, their physical home in Tampa was a tiny two-bedroom rental house that had an unresponsive landlord and several maintenance issues including malfunctioning plumbing and air conditioning. They lived simply and frugally with over 50% of their modest income going to rent.

Today, they are enjoying the peace of mind and security of their own home. Their affordable Habitat home has helped ease their financial struggles and provided an opportunity they’ve never had – ownership and control of their own destiny. And their Habitat home is providing the stability the family has longed for as they rebuild their lives in the country they now thankfully and proudly call home.

Celebrate the season by supporting a cause you love. Help more local families know the transformational, stabilizing impact of an affordable home by donating to help keep Habitat building in our community!

Together, we build homes, not houses.

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