Unity Build, Week 2
“At Household of Faith, our pastor, Pastor Antoine Barriere, he teaches the Word. And it’s what you do for others, God will turn around and do for you. So God has blessed us to be a blessing. That’s all we wanna do, because when you’re a blessing to someone, it’s better to give than to receive. Once you give and give freely from your heart, and be genuine with it, as God wants us to be, the things that you get back in return are so much greater.” – Sue Bonseigneur, Household of Faith
Two years ago, Trinity Episcopal and Household of Faith got together for the first Unity Build since Hurricane Katrina. The two churches formed deep bonds that have continued to this day and helped fuel this year’s build. Suzanne Bonseigneur of Household of Faith was there for the 2015 build, and this year, she has been out every day for the 2017 build.
“It was really mind-blowing just seeing a house come up from nothing but the bare floor,” Sue said. “In just three days, we got the walls up, the house wrapped, and the roof getting ready to be started. That was amazing.”
In 2015, she and homeowner Ashley Kottemann found common ground, just as she has with Nicole this year.
“Both Ashley and Nicole are single mothers,” Sue said. “Ashley had a little boy, Gabriel, and Nicole has two kids, her daughter Maya and her little boy Mason. He’s three. I’m a single mother myself, so looking at them receiving their own home at such a young age is really just outstanding. I have my own home now, but if I would have had an opportunity back then it would have been great. Just to see them get their own home so that they can raise their family in their _own home_, not someone else’s, in their own home is just a blessing. I’m happy for them. We kept in contact with Ashley, and I pray to do the same with Nicole.”
As a homeowner and a single mother, Sue knows what owning your own home at such a young age means. In New Orleans, 48% of children live with single mothers, and 58% single mothers live below the poverty line. For someone paying over half their income on rent each month, an affordable home–a home that they will own–can be the path out of hardship. And by participating in the Habitat program, partner families learn the skills that help them preserve their home for generations.
“[Homeownership] gives you a sense of accomplishment, and it gives you a sense of security,” Sue said. “It gives you a sense of growth. From renting to owning your house, you feel like it’s really yours. ‘This is mine. I have to take care of it, because nobody’s gonna do it for me.’ And it starts your credit if you don’t have any. This is a great opportunity to start your credit off on the right track. To own your own home, it gives you a sense of accomplishment. And n a Habitat site, you learn different trades. I like to do a lot of things my self. I’m very independent. You get to learn different techniques, different things that you can use later in life.”
For Unity Build 2017, Sue has not only helped build the home, but also assisted in the administrative side of the build, working many mornings registering volunteers and bringing in snacks for the congregants on site.
“We provide snacks and water,” she explained. “At least four cases of water a day, because it gets really hot out here. I don’t want anybody to be dehydrated. As I’m seeing the guys up on the roof right now, it’s so hot up there. So they have to stay hydrated. But doing the registration is when you get to really meet the different people. You just talk to them, just be friendly, you know, the way God wants us to be. It’s been a blessing.”
Being out every day has allowed Sue to see the rapid progress of the home, and it has given her plenty of opportunities to meet volunteers from other congregations.
“It was simply amazing,” she said. “One thing that we’re grateful for is meeting with other congregations and the relationships that are forming, and just talking to the other people in the congregations. It’s beautiful.”