Habitat UCOL Home for Mathilde

Published: Wed 3 Aug 2011 11:28 AM
2 August 2011
Habitat UCOL Home for Mathilde
When Congolese refugee Mathilde MBani and three of her four children arrived in Palmerston North in January 2006, she didn’t dream that one day she would have the opportunity to own her own home.
But it has just been announced that early next year Mathilde and her family will move into a house built for her by UCOL students, in a partnership with Habitat for Humanity. Construction of the house starts this week on land beside UCOL’s Princess Street entrance. When finished, it will be moved to a permanent location in Palmerston North.
The rent Mathilde pays will be affordable, based on her earnings, and will go towards purchase of the house.
In the five years since she arrived in Palmerston North from Gabon, Mathilde and her three sons and daughter (the third child joined them last year) have faced many language and cultural challenges.
Through sheer drive and determination to stand on her own two feet, not receive ‘benefits’, and to provide for her family, Mathilde has worked tirelessly, sometimes juggling three jobs at a time. She spent a year at the English Language College learning English and then went to UCOL to earn a Certificate in Computing. She secured work in the elderly care sector and has been in her current position as a care assistant for special needs clients with NZ Care for three years.
But Mathilde has a dream to run her own business and intends to go back to UCOL to study business. She says the UCOL Habitat house will help her realise her dream: “It will be easier to find the money for the rent which takes pressure off me and should let me save. It will also give the children a safe and permanent place to live. We love Palmerston North and want to stay.”
All of Mathilde’s children are now in full time study. Her eldest sons, aged 22 and 19, are both studying at UCOL, doing a Computing programme and Pre-Apprentice Carpentry respectively. Her daughter, aged16, is at Awatapu College and planning to do a Bachelor of Nursing degree at UCOL. Her 10 year old son is at Cornerstone Christian School. Mathilde wants to be “a great role model for my children, proving to them you can still succeed when the odds are stacked against you.”
Maria Work, Family Selection and Support, Habitat for Humanity says Mathilde and her family were in state housing until early 2010, when, with increased rent and overcrowding putting pressure on family relationships, they had no option but to move into a private rental, with high and unsustainable rent. “The Habitat house will allow her to pay rent at a rate she can afford and it would also allow her to start her business whilst still doing her part-time work.” she says. “Mathilde is a great fit with our philosophy of a ‘hand up’ not a ‘handout.’”
Habitat is a charity with a vision of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live. This new project started in 2010 when UCOL approached Habitat wanting to establish a win-win partnership for their building trade students and Habitat. Dean of Trades and Technology Kelly Gay says students will practise their construction skills, under the careful eyes of their tutors, by building the house within the UCOL grounds as part of their courses. “Once the house is enclosed and lined, it will be transported to its permanent location – sitting between two other previous Habitat homes. It will be completed on-site by Habitat volunteers and Mathilde’s family,” Kelly says.
Glen and Kelly say this exciting new partnership between UCOL’s Trades Faculty and Habitat will work to create this opportunity for Mathilde to own a simple, decent and affordable house.
Tyson Schmidt, UCOL Director Business Development, welcomes the opportunity for Trade students to experience this new teaching tool and also says, “We are happy to help more broadly by acting as a catalyst for developing charitable housing in the Manawatu/Wanganui area”.
Anyone who would like to become involved in this special project should contact Glenn Brewerton, Project Manager (Manawatu), at Local enquiries concerning new applications for a Habitat for Humanity home in the Manawatu can also be made through this email address to Maria Work or by visiting the national website, .

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