Habitat Blog

Guest Blog: Ugonma's Story

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The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

 

I have long been searching for this place called "home" where I too may go, as I am, and not be questioned. Not be questioned by the barrage of gunshots that violently woke me up when I was asleep or by police sirens seeking out yet another perpetrator of crime. I too, longed for home.

 

Growing up, I knew very intimately the fear of feeling unsafe in a neighborhood I called home. I was four years-old when my family left Nigeria for San Francisco’s Pacific shores. Although I was too young to understand why we were immigrating, I knew our three-bedroom house in the Fillmore was not home.

 

June 2010 remains one of the most transformative months of my life. It was the month we moved into our Habitat home. I recall the liberating feeling of having a room—my own room. To say my family’s well-being improved is an understatement. Our lives transformed. For the first time in our lives, we had something that wholly and truly belonged to us.

 

A space where each of us could go and not be questioned and for the first time in my life, I felt at home. I also saw a shift in my mother. The joy she exuded from having a secure, stable place was infectious. My mother brought my siblings and I to America because she wanted us to receive a quality education and be fully empowered to pursue and realize our dreams. Her American dream was a better life for her children. She never imagined that one day she would become a homeowner and she too would have a place to call home.

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My mom often says,  “...there’s no way to quantify the impact of our home. It’s more about the mindset it creates because when you have a stable home, you have a centered mind, your outlook on life is high, and your energy can be put toward guiding and supporting your children."

 

While most high-school students react to college admissions offers with excitement—my experience was very different. When I was accepted to Loyola Marymount University, my joy lasted 47 seconds before being overshadowed by guilt.  My mother spent years of her life working 16-18 hour days to provide me the best opportunities and now I was going to reward her with a huge tuition bill. I remember the tears in my mother’s eyes as she read acceptance letter after acceptance letter from prestigious Universities around the country. When I asked her how we would afford the tuition, her words were, “remember, we have a home now. We have options.”

 

As I look to the future, it does not escape me for one moment the tremendous impact Habitat has had on my life trajectory. It’s the reason I was able to attend a prominent Jesuit university and develop my passion for serving others. Habitat is the reason I have developed a keen interest in ongoing refugee crises that plague our world. You see, my family had the choice to come to America and was able to call a secure place “home.” I've seen the multiplying effect that comes from stability and want to give others around the world a place they can call “home” by shaping international policy and global economic development.

 

Today, I work at Wells Fargo Bank with their International Group as part of the company’s Leadership Pipeline Program. In my spare time I am either studying for the GRE or researching nonprofit organizations that work specifically with refugees to get involved with.

 

My name is Ugonma, and I hope to make an impact that lasts for generations.

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