Senga Lucie’s life has had a lot of twists and turns that ultimately led her to the doorsteps of Habitat for Humanity. She grew up in the Congo, Africa, with her parents and five siblings. But in 1996, a brutal war in her homeland tragically claimed the lives of her father and two of her brothers. The rest of the family was forced to relocate to neighboring Tanzania.
Life in Tanzania was hard. Senga said she lived in an overcrowded, disease-infested refugee camp. Her family worked long hours as gardeners, growing beans and sweet potatoes. “But they no give you money,” she explained.
A lot of people died from Malaria. People died because there was no food and no medicine. The water was dirty. If you got sick, you died.”
Senga lived her life the best she could, and went on to get married. Then, over time, the government began closing refugee camps. The United Nations helped resettle the displaced families, which led Senga and her husband to the Scenic City. Incredibly, Senga said they didn’t realize they were coming to Chattanooga – let alone to America. They were under the impression they were moving to Uganda. “You feel very scared because they no tell you. They surprise you. You don’t know about America,” she said.
But once Senga and her husband arrived here, she said they were greeted warmly by Bridge Refugee Services and a local church who would help them secure housing, jobs and other basic necessities.
Senga’s marriage later ended in divorce. Then, another life-altering event occurred. Her older sister had died from Malaria several years earlier. She left behind a one-year-old daughter, Uwimana, who grew up in an African orphanage. But when her niece was 18 years old, Senga said the Lord worked a miracle and brought her to Chattanooga!
With assistance from the American Red Cross, Senga was reunited with Uwimana – the niece whom she only remembered as a baby. “I said, ‘O.K. I must take care of her.’ Everything I do is for her. I thank God for her.”
Senga has no children of her own, but wanted to provide a stable home for Uwimana. She heard about Habitat from several friends. One of them, Mokhtar Abo, encouraged her to apply. “Abo said, ‘Sister, come to my house. It’s a beautiful house! You can have one, too!’ ”
Through Habitat, Senga said she’s learned a lot about how to care for her future home. She looks forward to sharing her new house with Uwimana, who now attends Chattanooga State. Senga also looks forward to having an affordable mortgage payment. Once she’s settled into her home, she hopes to secure her GED and a higher-paying job. “When I have my Habitat house, I’ll be good.”
Funding Provided By:
City of Chattanooga, Office of Economic and Community Development,
Andy Berke, Mayor
Habitat for Humanity of Tennessee
Tennessee Housing Development Agency