He wore an old black turtleneck, jeans, black knee guards and sneakers. It was a far cry from his usual suit-and-tie work attire but, for U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson, it was a more sensible outfit for the job at hand — to help retrofit a Habitat for Humanity home for an Ottawa family in need.
Habitat for Humanity raises funds, organizes volunteers and builds and renovates homes for low-income working families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford a conventional mortgage. The families themselves invest 500 hours of their time to help build the home, but so do a raft of volunteers. A family must also commit to paying the interest-free mortage, payments for which are set at no more than 30 percent of their income.
While Habitat does build houses from the ground up, this particular home was originally built several years ago for another Habitat family — a mother and her children. Her two sons were raised in the home and went on to serve, with distinction, in the Canadian Forces. With the boys all grown up, the mother decided another family could use the house more than she could. She told Habitat she wanted to sell the house back to them so another family could enjoy it and thrive in it the way she and her family had.
The lucky latest family — the Hachokakes, who emigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo — were chosen to move into the five-bedroom Hiawatha Park Drive house. Christopher Hachokake and his wife, Charlotte, have five children who range in age from 18 years to one year. They had been renting in the neighbourhood next to Bayshore Shopping Centre, one plagued by the illegal drug trade and associated crimes.
Mr. Jacobson’s wife, Julie, also volunteered her time on Easter weekend to help outfit the Hachokakes new home, as did a number of embassy staff members.
“It is, of course, wonderful that families like the Hachokakes will get to live in a beautiful home,” Mr. Jacobson told his blog readers about his volunteering gig. “But there is something else just as important about the Habitat experience. Members of the community, people like my friends and colleagues at the embassy, can be involved citizens. They can give back, they can participate in making the communities in which they live better for themselves and for others.
“I thank Habitat for Humanity for the opportunity we were afforded and I hope all of you, in a way that is meaningful to you, have the same opportunity to give back to a world to which we owe so much.”