Written by Erin Maxey, homeowner services manager, Willamette West Habitat for Humanity
As a young woman in Ethiopia, Eyerusalem dreamed of owning a little store, but was told by many it was a silly dream. For a single woman to achieve such a thing in Ethiopia would be almost impossible. Women have few opportunities in Ethiopia. Most women do not get an education, women who are able to work get paid far less than men, and young girls are forced into marriages. Instead of believing the people that told her to stop dreaming so big, Eyerusalem continued to picture a better life for herself. As Eyerusalem got older, her dream of owning a store in Ethiopia was replaced by a dream to come to America. In 2006, she decided to make her dream a reality.
Eyerusalem applied for a United States VISA lottery in 2006. Even though the odds were small that she’d get a chance to come to America, she knew she had to try. To her amazement and delight, Eyerusalem was chosen and immigrated to America that same year.
After arriving in Washington D.C. with very limited English or knowledge of America, Eyerusalem set out to make the best life she could. She began taking English classes and worked in a small coffee shop. Eyerusalem would eventually find her way to Oregon where she started work at a McDonalds in Aloha. In 2011, she got a better job at Goodwill, where she works today.
For six years, since she first arrived in Oregon, Eyerusalem and her two children lived in a small 1-bedroom apartment in Beaverton. The apartment was old. The paint was peeling, the heat did not work property, and in the winter, Eyerusalem spent time every evening cleaning mold from the walls. She worried about what the mold was doing to her children.
Eyerusalem knew she had to make a change. In 2014 when a friend told her about Habitat, she once again found herself dreaming, but this time she was dreaming of a better life for herself and her kids. She took a chance, and submitted her application. Even though Eyerusalem knew that many people apply each year and only a handful can be accepted, she knew that Habitat was the answer to her problems. Three long months after submitting her application, Eyerusalem was delighted to find out that she had been selected!
On May 11, after 3 years and 500 hours of sweat equity, she purchased her very own home. A dream many people in Ethiopia would have told her was silly. As a little girl, Eyerusalem dreamt of a better life for herself, and 10 years ago she made the first step when she came to America. She then made another leap when she applied for Habitat. Now, with a stable and strong foundation under her feet, Eyerusalem is already dreaming of what’s next for her and her children.