A Winnipeg family is starting a new chapter with the purchase of their first home, five years after arriving in the city as refugees.
Nzigire Bwendwa and her family were sponsored to come to Canada in 2012. They had been living in Kampala, Uganda for three years after fleeing their home in Congo because of civil war.
“Life was not easy as a refugee,” Bwendwa said. “You don’t work, you don’t know what you can eat tomorrow.”
During their first years in Winnipeg, the family lived in cramped quarters in a rented apartment. Bwendwa said they wanted a nice home to raise their three children.
“In the past, we didn’t have a lot of space to sleep,” said Christine Lobea, Bwendwa’s nine-year-old daughter. “My dad used to sleep on the floor and me and my mom used to sleep on the bed.”
‘What can I do to have this house?’
Bwendwa and her husband soon started studying at the Université de Saint-Boniface, learning English and working as health care aides.
“In my country I was a nurse, and when I was coming here my vision was that I was going to go to school to be a nurse,” she said. “But this is not possible because my English is not better.”
The family began putting aside a small amount of money each month to save up for a home with more space for their family.
But Bwendwa worried they would never be able to buy their own home after she fell ill in January. “I was sick in the hospital and I was not able to work. I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?'”
In March, their pastor told them about a new housing development in the east end of the city and recommended that the family look at one of the houses for sale.
When they visited the home where they are now living, Bwendwa said she knew they would find a way to buy it.
“What can I do to have this house?” she said she asked the realtor. “Keep for me this house.”
Just the beginning
Bwendwa said the property was held for her and her family until they had saved enough money. They moved into the three-bedroom townhouse in the first week of August.
“This is the property for my children,” she said. For the first time in her life, Christine has her own bedroom and space to play with her younger sisters.
“We can sit in the family room and eat together,” Christine said. “I can go play in the basement and I can play with my little sisters.”
When CBC visited the family in early August, the house still smelled like fresh paint and the bedrooms were cluttered with boxes. But…