Strength, love, and determination are what it took for Mahmoud Dalal and Saba Abdelkadir to accomplish their dream of homeownership in the United States. On October 1, 2011 this family’s lifelong dream of owning their own home began to become a reality because of Knoxville Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build 2011.
It was love at first site for Ethiopian born, Saba, and Somalia native Mahmoud, who met through a mutual friend in Ethiopia. They spoke different native languages but were able to communicate through their mutual understanding of Arabic. The pair started a family together in Somalia and had two children, Jamal and Amir. Amir is currently in 6th grade and goes to Gresham Middle School while Jamal is in 4th grade and attends Bell Morris Elementary. The entire family moved to the United States in May of 2009.
However, life before they moved to the United States was filled with hardship and struggle. Under a dictatorship since 1969, Somalia has been at war within its own country ever since 1991. Mahmoud, Saba, and their children were refugees seeking protection and escape from the country. The couple had lived in Somalia for 15 years and when the war took a turn for the worst they decided it was time to leave. It took them 8 months of applications, interviews, and anticipation before they were approved to be relocated by the United Nations to Knoxville.
The family was pleased to have a fresh start in a peaceful country with countless opportunities; however, it took some adjusting.
“A new country and new society, with a new set of traditions was upon us,” said Mahmoud.
Although they were able to find jobs as custodians at the University of Tennessee within 5 months of arriving, Mahmoud described the job search as difficult because of the language barrier. The pair works opposite shifts in order to make sure that one parent is able to be home with their children when they are not at school.
It was only 8 short months after the family moved here that they found out about the Knoxville Habitat for Humanity program through a Somali family already residing in a Habitat for Humanity home. In January 2010, they applied for a Habitat for Humanity home. The family began to earn their sweat equity hours through educational classes and completed the program in less than 2 years.
The family is looking forward to the construction of their new home. Homes in Somalia are constructed with cement blocks and a lack of interior decoration so the family was anxious to learn about the building materials and to pick out the specifications for their home.
Mahmoud and Saba’s house is being constructed by women in the Knoxville community as part of Women Build 2011.
“If it’s all women or all men it’s all the same to me,” joked Mahmoud. “My sons will have their own bedrooms and be closer to their schools.”
Their new home will be dedicated November 19, 2011.