To earn a living for his family, Sammy cleaned upholstered furniture in other people’s homes in his native Nairobi, Kenya for $30 per day. He would start at 8 a.m., take a 30-minute lunch break, and then get off work at 6 or 7 at night. He and his wife, Lucy, along with their sons, David and Onesmus, lived in a modest, two bedroom brick house in Kenya’s capital where they paid $70 a month for rent. Lucy stayed home and took care of the house. Their adult sons shared a bedroom – and still do to this day.
“That is why we had to come (to the Unites States) to try to get better opportunities for jobs,” Sammy said, as well as seek safe, decent and affordable housing.
Sammy and his family took part in the U.S. Green Card Card Lottery Program for 18 years in hopes of coming to America. “If you are lucky, you are selected and get a chance to come here. They select more than 1,000 (Kenyans) a year to come all over the United States.”
He and Lucy had heard about the Scenic City from a Kenyan friend who had attended college here. The friend eventually introduced the couple to a Chattanoogan who would later become their “Host Family.” Sammy and Lucy were blessed as their family was finally selected from the online lottery. And although they’d known each other since childhood through their affiliation with a Protestant church in Kenya, they were married in May 2014 and moved here one month later. And through the generosity of a local benefactor, their sons followed suit that September. (Sammy’s first wife and mother of his sons had previously passed away.)
“We were trying to come here. We had heard the United States was a very powerful country,” Lucy said. She and Sammy agreed that making the transition to living and working here was a smooth one. “We had so many people help us with everything – from utensils for the kitchen to mattresses and beds – everything! We have so much!” said Lucy, who works as a laborer for Pilgrim’s Pride.
The couple’s Host Family also assisted them with rental housing. They soon learned about Habitat from a parent of a former student at Bright School where Sammy works as a janitor. And after living here one year, they applied for the program and were accepted in the fall of 2015. “We’ve been telling people about Habitat so much,” Lucy said. “I try to tell them how they can buy their house. If you don’t have a lot of money, Habitat is a good project.”
Sammy, who is known on the construction jobsites for his strong work ethic, said he’s grateful that his sons, ages 21 and 19, will soon have separate bedrooms. His eldest is studying at Chattanooga State to become an electrical engineer while his younger son, who’s undecided about his major, also attends the technical college. With their own space, Sammy said they will be able to better focus on their studies.
Truly, home is where the heart is and this family is almost home!
Funding provided by:
Henderson Hutcherson & McCullough
City of Chattanooga
Department of Economic and Community Development
Andy Berke. Mayor
Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga
Additional funding, support, Services or Materials provided by:
Chattanooga Area Volunteers
Daughters of the American Revolution, Chief John Ross Chapter
The Embroiderers’ Guild of America, Chattanooga Chapter
The HART Gallery
State Farm Insurance -Hamilton Co. Agents
St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church
Two Men and a Truck