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Jema, Romel & Isla, are our 65th Partner family to join the Habitat for Humanity Victoria community. With nine month old Isla, they will be making the move to Yea, and calling Lot 16 Prospect Rise their home.

Currently, they are living in a high-rise housing commission unit in Fitzroy. The living conditions are stressful and dangerous. Jema is constantly fearful of the building’s frequent false fire alarms; with alarms going off 1 – 2 times a month. It has been necessary to evacuate the building 4 times due to fire. This is quite a task from the unit on the 20th floor of the building.

This stressful situation means that Jema sleeps with a packed bag, checking the corridors for smoke every night before bed, which makes for sleepless nights.

Jema and Romel are exposed to drug dealing and violence when using elevators or walking down the corridors of the flat. Jema is fearful to leave her flat unless accompanied by someone else. This constant stress has left Jema and Romel anxious and frightened. Consequently they feel this environment is not the best place to raise their daughter.
Jema didn’t have the easiest start in life. From a young age, her mother became mentally unwell. Her parents separated. When Jema could no longer live with her mother the family explored other options. In the summer of 2009 Jema was 12 years old and in the process of moving to Marysville to live with her grandparents when the Black Saturday Bushfires happened. Tragically her grandparents both died in the fires. This meant that Jema was left without a home, ending up in state care and being placed in Foster care homes until turning 18. When 18 years old DHHS moved her into the housing commission flats in Fitzroy to live on her own.

Romel is originally from the Philippines, and migrated with his family to Australia in 1987. He has lived with his mother in Sunbury. He still spends time at Sunbury as, strictly speaking, the lease for the Unit in Fitzroy is only for Jema. This makes family life somewhat of a challenge.

Romel has found part time work as a cleaner and visits Jema and Isla as often as he can. Jema has worked as a hair dresser and in Call centres in the past. She is now caring for their daughter on a full time basis. She plans to return to work when she can.

Jema and Romel met each other in 2016 through mutual friends, and couldn’t be happier as they now have ‘a beautiful family’ – ‘we consider ourselves very blessed’. They have been in a relationship for over 2 years.

Being originally from Benalla, the city has never quite felt like the right fit for Jema. The opportunity to be able to live with Romel and raise Isla in a small country town like Yea is a dream come true.

Both Jema & Romel are looking forward to the move, as they believe it’s the perfect place to raise Isla and to be able to have a ‘normal, healthy, productive life.’

‘We’re excited about being able to call the home ours, and feel safe in our own environment. We can’t wait to come together as a family and contribute with building the house and getting an idea on the design aspects in building the house. I’m most excited about setting up Isla’s nursery, choosing the colours of her feature wall that will look nice with her furniture’.

Romel can’t wait to have his own shed to be able to store all of his tools in. He hasn’t stopped talking about building a cubby house for Isla, now that we will have a backyard to put a shed into. He can finally stop dreaming about building Isla’s cubby house and actually do it!’

‘It’ll be magical,’ is how Romel described how it will feel to get the keys to their own home. A place where they can finally establish themselves, and build a life worth living within the beautiful
township of Yea.

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Habitat for Humanity Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the country on which we work, the peoples of the Eora Nation, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water, and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging. We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters of Australia. 

We are endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office as a Deductible Gift Recipient with charity status. Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible. Habitat for Humanity is accredited by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), responsible for managing the Australian Government’s development program. Habitat for Humanity Australia receives support through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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