COLUMBIA — Next month, Aaron Ruvugwa and his family of 10 will move into a five-bedroom home they helped build with Habitat for Humanity.
Ruvugwa's journey to the house on Banks Avenue began 14 years ago when he was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
His family had left the country in 1994 because of a bloody civil war and spent 10 years living in refugee camps in Rwanda waiting to get a visa to the U.S.
“It’s hard to get to America,” Ruvugwa said. "We had to live in camps."
Ruvugwa was able to get his visa in 2004 and lived in New Hampshire for two years. Two years after that, his family joined him.
In 2006, they moved to Columbia, where Ruvugwa knew someone who had already received a home through Habitat for Humanity.
Ruvugwa first applied for a home in January 2007, but without a job, he did not qualify. After finding work in a maintenance business, he went back in June 2007 and reapplied. When he found out he was getting a home through Habitat, he felt a sense of ease.
“I was feeling better,” Ruvugwa said.
He worked at University Hospital for 11 months this year and also helped build his new house. Habitat for Humanity requires that prospective homeowners become partners in the construction process.
Ruvugwa worked four hours every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning, putting a total of 378 hours into painting, roofing and cleaning up. Other members of the family helped out when they could.
According to habitatforhumanity.com, the cost of a Habitat home in the U.S. averages $60,000. Ruvugwa expects to pay about $415 per month.
When asked how he feels about becoming a homeowner for the first time, Ruvugwa's face broke into a huge smile.