Dolma Family

Sonam Dolma

My name is Sonam Dolma. I was born in 1959. Although I am Tibetan, I was born in India. Because of the Chinese invasion, my parents escaped from Tibet. When I was seven-years-old, my mother passed away in a car accident. My dad was left to take care of me and my three siblings. When I was 16, my dad passed away due to illness. My grandma and aunt too care of us after my parents died.

Time had passed and I got married. A few years into my marriage I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy we named Palden. Life in India was really hard. Growing up as a refugee and the living conditions were always rough. One day, I got the opportunity to come to America. It was a hard decision because I didn’t want to leave my son who was one-year-old. After support from family and friends, I decided it was best to go. In 1993, I came to America. I lived with four roommates in order to save money. In the beginning of 1994, I visited India and got pregnant with my second child. Returning back to America, I worked two jobs. Even though I was pregnant, I often worked extra hours in order to afford to bring my family to America. Because of the strict immigration policies, it took me five years to bring them here. In 1998, my older son and my husband finally came to America. Ever since my husband came to America, our marriage became harder and harder. The situation became so serious that I took my boys and left home. With a social worker’s help, I found a woman’s shelter.

After three months, the social worker found us a low income place to live and we were finally able to move out of the shelter. This was when I became a single mother with two young boys. The hardest part about raising kids in America was dealing with my background and language problems. Compared to India, America has a completely different culture, language and way of life. On top of that, I had no family for support. I felt like I started a new life again. Without our low-income place to live, we probably would not have survived. We have been living here for 15 years and are grateful. Our dream was always to have our own place. We never thought it was possible until we found Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. After we were accepted, we felt there was still hope. My boys are everything to me and nothing would make me happier than to get a home that they always dreamed of having.

The Lee-Her Family

Steven Lee and Pa Her (260x230)This is the story of my life.

I was born in Laos. When I was about 1-year old my parents and I left Laos. My family left Laos to Thailand because my father supported the United States during the Vietnam War. After the US left Vietnam in 1975, the communist Laotian and the communist Vietnamese came searching for those who had helped the US during the Vietnam War to take them prisoner. My family couldn’t stay in Laos anymore because of my father’s support of the United States, so we ran to Thailand in 1982. With little we had in Thailand we did what we could do to survive. We all tried to find odd jobs here and there just to feed our family and had little time for education. In 2002, I married my wife in Thailand. Afterwards, on Sept. 3, 2004 my wife and I came to the United States.

Today there are five people in my family. I have three sons, the oldest is a 6th grader, the next son is a 3rd grader and the youngest son is three so he stays home with his mother. My niece also lives with me. She goes to Madison East High School.

When I first came to America I saw that there were so many people who had good jobs and houses. This made me sad because I didn’t have a house to call mine. I was uneducated and I didn’t speak a word of English, how was I to find a job to support my family? This made me really sad. But today, Habitat for Humanity has given me an opportunity of a lifetime. When I heard that my family received a home offer, we were so excited. I told my kids not to worry any longer because we will have a house to call our own. We encouraged our kids to work hard in school and always remember to help others as they will help you.

In the end I want to thank Habitat for Humanity, the donors, sponsor and volunteers for their time. Without them my family and I will not be receiving this home.

Thank you again. Steven Lee & Pa Ha Her

The Miller Family

Hi, first of all, I’m very happy to be one of Habitat for Humanity’s participants. I was born in Iraq in the beginning of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. I spent all my childhood moving from town to town with my family, running away from the war because we were living close to the border where most of the military operations took place.

My family is very small. I didn’t see my father because he died when I was only five months old in a war related accident. So, my mother took a huge responsibility to support the family through those difficult years. After the war, the whole country went through a harsh economic embargo that imposed on the dictatorship regime for more than 13 years because of the invasion of Kuwait. The embargo made the majority of the population live under severe poverty.

Through those years, I managed to finish my education. In my last year of school, the US-Iraq war took place again in 2003. This led to a dramatic change in the country’s social and cultural situation. Iraq went through a severe civil war among its different religious and ethnic groups. As a result there was millions of families displaced internally in addition to millions of families who returned to their home after 2003.

Therefore, in 2004, I started working with an American humanitarian organization in Iraq to help refugees and vulnerable minorities in different areas. I was conducting different case management processes to help those families with their basic needs (food, water, shelter health and education). Our job required us to enter some really dangerous towns and villages that considered as hot zones for many people. We managed to rescue and assist thousands of families over the six years I was working there.

The Iraq civil war was a very dirty one. Unfortunately, during wars, some groups don’t differentiate between militants and humanitarian workers. With the increase of turmoil in the area we were working in, some militant groups started targeting the aid workers. In 2007, two of our employees were kidnapped and we didn’t hear anything about them for weeks. This led to minimize our operation in some areas, but the security situation was still getting worse. Unknown messages were received by our organization that employees will be their next target. This had put us in a great danger. I didn’t feel safe there anymore, especially I was going into different areas and many people recognized me. I started to feel serious fears about my life there, that’s why I came to United States. This is my travel story.

Unfortunately my family is still stuck in Iraq, and I hope I can bring them here soon. With the help of Habitat for Humanity and the great volunteers in the area, I feel a lot safer here and I’m working hard to build this home so in case (hopefully) my family comes here, they would have a place to stay in.

I can’t thank Habitat and the volunteers enough for all the support and passion they have been showing to me and to other families. People like these are making the real changes in this life, because they are touching the hearts and treating the wounds.

God bless you all.

Vasquez-Nieto Family

Vasquez-Martinez-nieto-quevora (3) (260x220)Hello everyone and thanks to all of you, especially to God, who made it possible for us to begin a new stage in our lives and see our dreams realized. We are Alberto and Maria and we have two sons, Jaison (15) and Nicolas (7).

Maria and I want for our children a stable place for them to live and be able to provide them a better future. What we enjoy most is sharing with family is dinner, because this is the time where we can feel the familiar warmth with my family. I, Alberto, also enjoy cooking dinner for them.

I work hard in a landscape company here in Madison. In my spare time I work on my community garden, bicycle with my wife and play with my kids.

We enjoy spending time with our children. I also enjoy music, dancing and enjoy nature. Our son, Jaison, likes to practice, soccer/football and I think he is a good player. Our son, Nicolas, likes to practice English, playing with friends after school, and he also is interested in learning to play a musical instrument. He practices with drums and keyboard.

I believe and have faith in my family and with the mercy of God and the help of the volunteers we can achieve our goal of having our own home. A special gratitude to Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for giving us this opportunity.

Parks Family

Jennifer ParksMy name is Jennie. I have a 17-year old son, Anthony and a 12-year old daughter, Raissa. We have lived in Sun Prairie for 12 years. My son Anthony is a junior at the Sun Prairie High School. He loves basketball and football, and has played both sports since kindergarten. He is a great son and friend, who makes me proud each day!

My daughter Raissa is a 6th grader at Patrick Marsh Middle School. She enjoys music and spending time with her friends. She was awarded a 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Outstanding Person Award for her kindness to others and volunteer work in the community.  As a family we enjoy watching movies together, traveling to historic places and going to Sun Prairie Cardinal Sporting events. Go Cardinals!

In addition to working full time, I also volunteer in my community. One organization that is close to my heart is the Sun Prairie Skateboard Park Committee. Right now we are fundraising to expand the skateboard park by offering beginner skateboard lessons through the Sun Prairie Parks and Recreation Department. I also am the Secretary of the Sun Prairie Youth and Families Commission. The Youth and Families Commission’s duty is to increase the community’s awareness of the positive contributions made to the community by youth and families and to help groups within the city to work on making Sun Prairie a better place for the city’s youth and families. I was introduced to Habitat for Humanity when a speaker came to talk to the Youth and Families Commission about the program. It was then I realized that I might meet the criteria as a potential homeowner.

We moved to Sun Prairie in 2002 from a very dangerous neighborhood in another city. The last straw for us was in April of 2002 when Raissa was one-month old. I was standing in my living room rocking her in front of the window when gunfire erupted about 20 feet from where I was standing. I screamed and jumped to the floor with her. Then my son, who was 5 at the time, ran to the living room to see why I screamed and I had to pull him to the floor also. I am very thankful that we were not playing outside in the yard that day.

The move to Sun Prairie changed our lives. I feel like this community saved our lives and we are grateful to soon be homeowners here. As my children grow up and create their own paths in life, Sun Prairie will always be their home. We are invested in this community and will continue to look for opportunities to help others.

We look forward to home ownership and I can’t wait to start a vegetable garden with my mom and work on building projects with my dad. Home ownership means we will always have a place to gather now and for future generations. Owning a home will also make my future dream of becoming a foster parent a reality. We are excited to start the process of building our home and creating lifelong bonds with everyone involved.

On behalf of my family and extended family, we thank from the bottom of our hearts, Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, our sponsors Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and CUNA Mutual Group and the many volunteers who are making this dream come true. THANK YOU!


Janisch Family

969 Cherreka ZoeyHi we are the Janisch family. We have 3 children our oldest child is in high school, the middle child is in elementary school and our youngest is in pre-school.

In 2012, I was watching television and the commercial kept coming on about Habitat. We asked our friends and family if they heard of Habitat? Then one of my family members called and said that one of their co-workers had their home built with Habitat. My husband and I looked Habitat up online but did nothing. A year later, we are living in a rental home and our lease was up at the end of May. We started looking for another place before our lease was up and we could not find anything. We decided to buy a house. We were approved for a home, but it would not work for our family. We were running out of time. One day we were watching T.V. again and the commercial about Habitat kept coming on. I told my husband God is trying to tell us something. We only had a week left to get our paperwork into Habitat. So we filled out the paperwork, mailed it off and prayed. A week later, I received a phone call from Habitat telling me our application has been approved. I was shocked! WHAT? Oh my God, Oh my God. My co-teacher didn’t know what was going on she thought something bad happened. I was so excited. When I got off the phone my boss had to come in and looked at me because I was still in shock. She asked me if I was o.k? I nod my head yes. I told them I have some good news but I need to talk to my husband first. My boss told me to hurry up and call him, we want to know the good news too. So I got a hold of my husband and he was so happy. He told me I am so glad we didn’t give up. Now we need to give it God and believe he will make a way. When I came back in the room I told my boss and my co-worker then we all were yelling.

Before we found out we were approved for a Habitat home, we moved into my mom’s basement. We had to put our stuff in storage, which was very difficult. Here we are a family of five living in a basement that was cold. After we found out we were approved for Habitat, we told my mom we would be moving out soon. She was so excited for us.

Praise the Lord, we said, we are finally getting our own home. Thank you Jesus! Thank you Habitat for Humanity and all the volunteers

The Janisch Family

Xiong Family

About my family:
In 1975, the aftermath of the Vietnam War caused our parents to flee Laos due to persecution.  We were both born in Laos. We were lucky enough to be young and had the privilege of travelling on the back of our parents that were already full of luggage. We had to travel through mountains and jungles; starving and living off of wild gathered plants. While travelling from Laos to Thailand, we walked through fields of dead bodies, witnessing multiple rapes and human rights violation. Once arriving at the border of Laos and Thailand, the gigantic Mekong River still stood in our way. There was no boat and no proper form of transportation across the river; rafts were made out of bamboo trees.

After arriving to the refugee camp in Thailand life was no better off than before. The refugee camp was exactly like a concentration camp. Everyone had curfew and limited excess to the outside world; many people were brutally beaten and tortured. We were not allowed to work or find farm land to grow food. Our lives depended on the United Nation. Every week, we waited patiently for the donated food distribution. We looked towards the sky, waiting for the day when we can regain our freedom and equality.

In 1992, we got married. In 1994, we were blessed with our first child, Vang Xiong. We lived in the slum of Wat Thamkrabok, sub-district of Phra Phutthabat, Saraburi Province, Thailand. In 2005, we immigrated to Madison as refugees. Our family has been in the United States for nine years and since our arrival, we have lived in subsidized housing. We have always wanted to own a home; however, George is the only one working and we never thought we would be able to reach our dream until we heard of Habitat for Humanity of Dane County. Although we were not sure if we would be one of the lucky applicants, we applied anyways. We are so grateful to be accepted.

Our new life in the USA gave us the opportunity to create a future for our family, specifically our children. Our oldest daughter, the only child we had in Thailand currently attends the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition, we are blessed with an additional four children in the USA. Our children are our hope and our future. We are extremely happy our children are receiving formal education and all the opportunities which we never had.

We want to thank Habitat for Humanity of Dane County, the staff and the volunteers who have given us the opportunity to reach one of our many goals. We have always dreamed of owning a safe and comfortable home for our children; a place that belongs to us, a place we can call our own. We appreciate the kindness and compassion of every staff member and volunteer involved in building sustainable and wonderful homes for families like ours. Thank you once again Habitat of Humanity of Dane County for fulfilling our dream.


Corbett-Strand Family

I am very excited to be working with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County to build a home for my son, Keegan, and me. We have dreamed of having our own home for many years. A coworker told me about Habitat for Humanity and this past Christmas we were told we would be owners of our home.

I am a single mother to my son Keegan, 12. I work third shift, so Keegan spends most night with his grandma and sometimes with his aunt. I am lucky to have the support of my wonderful mother and sister who help watch Keegan so I can work to provide him with everything he needs. Keegan has a special bond with his grandma and enjoys going camping with her during the summer and helping out around her house when he can. Keegan earned his Black Belt in karate from Kicks Unlimited this past April. He had to work hard, be disciplined and be respectful to earn his belt. Keegan is a caring thoughtful boy who tries every day to be the best he can be. He is a great child and I am proud to be the mother of him.

The past year Keegan and I learned how important it is to a person’s mindset and health to have a home you are proud of. We noticed how much harder it is to have a positive outlook on life when you are not happy with where you live. Luckily we were able to stay positive with the help of family and friends and now live in an apartment we feel better in. However, to afford this better place, I have to pick up additional hours at work and so miss out on spending time with Keegan.

I look forward to be able to reduce the hours of overtime I work to afford a house we are proud of. I look forward to the additional time I will be able to spend with Keegan helping to shape him into a caring, responsible adult. The homeowner classes will be so helpful and will give me a step up in feeling as if I can fix/keep up with all the repairs that are needed throughout the years. Keegan is looking forward to being able to paint his room and have a garden. He can’t wait to plant flowers and vegetables.

I want to thank the volunteers and Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for helping make our dream of owning our own house a reality. The volunteers and Habitat for Humanity staff we have met are friendly and have expressed such hope and joy it makes our experience even better than we had imagined. I am excited to share this experience with everyone and have my son learning the joy of giving.

Rebecca Corbett