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Donna’s story

When Warragul mother of four Donna heard she had been accepted to partner with Habitat for Humanity to build and own her own home, she cried tears of joy for a week.

“No one could have been more shocked,” Donna said. “It had been a really difficult and crazy time. I was always in tears, but this time it was good tears.”

It was 2012 when Donna and the kids had packed a truck and left their home in Warrnambool after a difficult marriage breakdown was threatening their stability and safety.

Her eldest son Jordan, 16, who has learning difficulties and had just been accepted into a school in Drouin which runs a specialist education program. With luck they managed to rent a modest home in nearby Trafalgar. But Donna, a former nurse, was barely able to stay on top of the school fees and rent. The family was just surviving thanks to the generosity of their new church community and Foodbank, but then the owners wanted to sell.

“I had a panic attack. I don’t have any money to move, it’s so expensive, “Donna said.

“Then a friend came over and said “Have you heard of Habitat for Humanity? They have meetings every few years for people needing a home. And there’s a meeting this Saturday.”

But everything was going against Donna that Saturday, with her daughter Micaiah, 11, struck down with gastro, and her other daughter Esther, 14, receiving treatment in the Royal Children’s Hospital for a major health issue. However, friends pitched in and Donna got to the meeting. There, she decided she would apply for a home.

“I was that close to not submitting it, there was so much going on,” Donna said.

“But my friend Robyn encouraged me the whole way. She said to me, ‘It’s your time’. I waded through the paper work and she sat with the kids while I worked out what I had to do.”

After many interviews, the life changing news came that she had been successful in partnering with Habitat to own their own home in Drouin. Donna’s home is one of three being built for families in need by Habitat Victoria.

“It’s a whole new beginning for us. It’s security. It’s not something that can be taken away from us. We can walk away from what has happened in the past,” Donna said.

Donna and the children go up to the house regularly to put in their sweat equity – their contribution to building their home – which includes making morning tea for the site workers and volunteers, sweeping and vacuuming, picking up rubbish, weeding and generally tidying up the block.

“When the children are at the house there is a lot of excitement and we have really bonded with the other families,” Donna said.

“The kids are super happy and planning all their bedrooms, but I’m not sure I’m going to let them have whatever wall colour they want as one of them wants black!” she said.

Her youngest son Isaac, 9, an aspiring architect, has been watching the building process, step by step.

“Zaccy squealed with delight when the bricking went up. It’s all so exciting for him. It’s his passion – he builds houses out of everything,” Donna said.

And when there are tough times, Donna finds herself driving up at her new house and sitting there.

“It’s a physical thing I can look at when you want to fall apart. Through the hardship there are many good things. For me to be able to go up there and physically sit there, and see this is real, is a huge thing,” she said.

The family has been fundraising to contribute to costs of building their home with the help of their church and friends, with regular sausage sizzles and donations.

“I often say this is the best move we’ve made. We have been very blessed here in this community, and our new home has topped it off,” Donna says.

Donna is pictured above, second from the left, alongside volunteers at her home currently under construction. 

Find out more about our work in Victoria here.

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