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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Thanks to Habitat for Humanity, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo are calling an Iowa City house, their home.
More than a decade ago, Mutula Kasiriba and his wife Meli Tulizo fled Congo to escape war. They spent the next ten years at a refugee camp in Tanzania. They then came to America and lived in a cramped apartment.
"They were in a two bedroom and they've got three little kids. People above and below them were complaining the kids were up at night, and it wasn't a friendly situation," Mark Patton, Executive Director for the Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, said.
Mutula said they desperately needed a change. So, he applied to the Iowa Valley Habitat program. Mutula had to put in hours of sweat equity, go through a credit check, and then sit on a waiting list, but in the end was set up with a former condemned property on Nevada Ave.
"There was no roof on half the house. Everything was rotten. The dry wall was all moldy. There were animals living in the walls," said Josh Hall, construction manager.
Over the last seven to eight months volunteers rehabilitated the property. They stripped it to the foundation and studs, then rebuilt it with green features, including energy efficient windows and insulation to keep utility bills low.
The Habitat for Humanity program also allowed Mutula and Meli to pay for the property at cost, with a no interest mortgage.
Saturday night was the first the family got to stay in the rehabbed house. They said it was good to be home.
"As Christians we say we are going to live in paradise. I feel like we're in paradise," said Mutula.
Finding a home was a big goal for Mutula. He said the next is getting back the job he had overseas as a teacher.