St. Paul’s – Johnson Foundation – Ayai Family – Completed
Without a doubt, the Ayai family has “hope for a better future.”The family came to America from the Republic of South Sudan, a country in the east-central region of Africa. South Sudan has been embroiled in a war with the Republic of Sudan (North Sudan) for over half a century. Kual and Adut were born in the midst of this civil unrest and witnessed its devastating affects as family members, friends, and neighbors alike became victims.
Fourteen year ago, Kual married Adut, and the Ayai family began to grow with daughters Anyang and Abojang following soon after. Graduating from the College of Education in South Sudan, Kual’s career began as a school teacher. Though Kual provided well for his family, it became clear that the unrelenting internal conflict in South Sudan and the constant threat of war provoked by North Sudan made it impossible for him to safeguard his family. With courage, determination, and strong encouragement from extended family, Kual and Adut made the difficult but necessary decision to leave South Sudan in search of a place where their “children would be saved and family preserved.”
The Ayai family’s journey to American was not a straight path. The United Nations required the family to be displaced from their home country as refugees to be considered for their resettlement program. This led the Ayais’ to Nigeria, West Africa where Kual worked as the manager of an agricultural farm for two years. His life and the safety of his family, again, in danger, Kual recognized that he had fully met the required refugee status and applied to the United Nations for relocation. The Ayai family was selected to come to the United States, and was then assigned for settlement in Chattanooga, TN.
Once in Chattanooga, the Ayai family received resettlement assistance through the Bridge Refugee program. The program found the family a place to live, a place of employment, and a place to worship. Three years later, the Ayai family remains in the same residence, with the same employer, and at the same place of worship.
Kual and Adut first heard of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Chattanooga Area when they arrived in Chattanooga; however, Kual says he, “…didn’t think about it in the beginning…there were too many other things to adjust to.” Some time later, he was reminded of Habitat through a Sudanese associate who had become a Habitat homeowner. Through the encouragement of their church, the Ayais’ decided to apply for the program. Now, as a Partner Family, they are well on their way to purchasing their first home in the United States.
Kual, a school teacher, was not accustomed to manual labor and had to learn new skills to fulfill his sweat equity hours. His experience in the homeownership program has led him to believe, “Habitat is a good process and does not just help you own a house, it teaches you skills. (Partnering with) Habitat is to own a home and have a skill.” Kual is looking forward to using his newly acquired skills in tandem with other volunteers to build his home. “I appreciate them,” he says.
The Ayai family continues to grow as daughter Nyanweer was welcomed as its newest member a little over a year ago. Looking forward, purchasing their home and obtaining a quality, higher education are of the greatest priority for the Ayai family. For Kual, owning a home is a testament of his standing as a husband, father, and American citizen. “Renting doesn’t establish a foundation; a house establishes a foundation. When you have a house you consider yourself to be a citizen, and not a foreigner. You can go anywhere in the world and always come back to your home.”
Media Coverage of the Build: