Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

New house ultimate Mother's Day gift

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TOMORROW is Mother's Day -- a day for honouring mothers, marked by breakfasts in bed and brunches. Gone in a flash.

But an energetic group of Winnipeg women have gotten together on a special project that will stretch Mother's Day out to October for one Winnipeg mom.

The Mother's Day Appeal by Winnipeg Women Build is helping to raise $135,000 to cover the cost of land and construction to build a five-bedroom home on Maralbo Avenue in St. Vital for a hard-working single mother who heads a family of eight.

For a donation of $25 or more, an art card designed for Women Build by local artist Kal Barteski (Bears on Broadway, Love Life Collected and Somehow It's Always About the Shoes) is sent to a woman of the donor's choice.

There's still time to pick one up for Mother's Day at the Habitat for Humanity's ReStore at 60 Archibald St., where they're available all year. Or you can make an online donation (www.habitat.mb.ca) or call (233-5160) any time to have a card sent out to honour a mother, sister, friend, mentor on her birthday or a special anniversary -- or just because.

Women Build is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, developed because the organization noted that although men and women are equally drawn to Habitat projects, building sites are mostly male.

Women Build "encourages women to step out of traditional roles and actually build a house," says Michelle Nyhof, Habitat's Winnipeg communications and marketing manager. Since 1991, about 1,000 houses have been completed around the world by Women Build volunteers.

The house will be home to a family of eight, headed by Frances F, a health-care aide whose last name is withheld to protect the family's privacy.

Frances, a former journalist in Sierra Leone, had to flee to Gambia following the murders of her father, brother and husband. There she located her five children and her mother.

In 2003, the family fled to Winnipeg where Frances struggles to support her family, which now includes a two-year-old nephew. They live in a four-bedroom public housing complex where drug-related crime and violence is common. The family is cramped and there are problems with temperature control -- they freeze in winter and boil in summer.

The Winnipeg Women Build house "is a house of firsts," says Nyhof -- the first time a complete house will be built by local women volunteers, the first time volunteers will pour a basement, the first project house "concrete to the eaves."

"It's so empowering to be with a group of interesting and energetic women so focused on one cause," says local realtor Cindi French, one of 14 female powerhouses on the Women Build steering committee. You can practically see the energy lines radiating out from her as she talks about the project.

The Women Build project offers women volunteers of all ages and all walks of life a rare opportunity to build something from the ground up.

It also offers donors a rare opportunity.

"Anyone donating funds can actually drive by the street and see the house that's being erected and know that's exactly where their money went," says French. "You can actually physically see it happening within the year you donate."

Volunteers will begin pouring concrete for the basement May 22, and building will take place through July, with help from project sponsor Logix Insulated Concrete Forms. Frances and her family are expected to be living in the house in October.

The house "is a hand up, not a handout," says French.

Recipients buy the house from Habitat through an interest-free mortgage with payments geared to income. They're also required to put in 500 hours of "sweat equity," says Nyhof, including 100 hours at the building site. Frances and her children are already working to fulfill this requirement through volunteer work at ReStore.

Mothers (and daughters) supporting mothers -- it's a good way to celebrate Mother's Day all year. If you'd like to volunteer for Women Build, contact Linda Peters, volunteer manager, online at lpeters@habitat.mb.ca or by telephone at 235-2188.

sharon.adams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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