Habitat gives war refugees a home for the holidays in Cleveland

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Habitat gives war refugees a home for the holidays in Cleveland

December 18, 2018 [Steven Litt, cleveland.com]

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Burundian refugees Jeremi and Speciose Krikumutima were thrilled Saturday to celebrate completion of the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity renovation of their new home. 

Some 50 volunteers, clergy, friends and community members gathered at the house in Cleveland’s Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood for speeches, prayers and photos to mark the moment. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” said Jeremi, 38, who works as a machine operator at U.S. Cotton in Cleveland. “It’s a place that makes us feel at home.” 

He and Speciose, 36, will move into their new home early in 2019 after Habitat transfers title to them, said Blake Johnston, a spokesman for the nonprofit organization. 

The Krikumutimas will live in the house with their four children, ranging in age from 7 months to 17 years. 

Natives of Ruyigi, a small city in central Burundi, they resettled in Cleveland in 2015 with the help of Catholic Charities after 17 years in a refugee camp in Tanzania. 

Burundi is a sub-equatorial African country south of Rwanda and sandwiched between Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania. 

A bloody civil war from 1993 to 2005 set ethnic Hutus and Tutsis against one another after the assassination of Melchior Ndadaye, an ethnic Hutu who was elected president of Burundi. 

The conflict that followed claimed 300,000 lives. A new civil war commenced in 2015 when protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term were violently repressed by pro-government forces, according to Public Radio International. 

The Cleveland part of the Krikumutimas’ story represents a happy ending after years of privation in Tanzania. 

Their new home, located near Shaker Square, is a three-story early 20th-century Craftsman with new plumbing, electrical lines, appliances, windows, floors and Drywall paneling. 

Habitat for Humanity acquired the badly dilapidated home from the Cuyahoga County Land Bank, which, in turn, acquired it from the city of Cleveland after a tax foreclosure. 

Vatreisha Nyemba of the Land Bank said the organization kept the property secure, maintained it and mowed the yard for three years until Habitat took over last winter. 

Some 110 volunteers from a half-dozen Cleveland-area churches donated 2,842 hours of labor to the nine-month renovation. 

Other participants in the project, which has an estimated value of $75,000, include the Cleveland office of Thrivent, a not-for-profit financial services organization. 

“You can see it’s like a new house,” Johnston said Saturday, showing a visitor the new bathrooms, wall-to-wall carpeting upstairs, and freshly refinished woodwork. “It even smells like one.”