Ireen is a dedicated, strong and intelligent woman with a positive outlook and contagious smile. Behind her warm personality lies a past filled with unthinkable hardships … but after suffering from housing insecurity her entire life, Ireen will finally have a home of her own.
Ireen’s parents, originally from the African country of Burundi, were forced to flee their country as young newlyweds when a civil war erupted in 1972. For decades, they were continually forced to relocate their family from camp to camp due to wars and were without a home or country to call their own. Ireen’s family even experienced the heartbreak of losing a child/sibling while running from danger.
Ireen was born in a refugee camp and displaced in neighboring countries, such as Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. She spent the first twenty-one years of her life escaping the dangerous wars, constant political unrest, poverty, fear and hunger.
The wars that Ireen’s family experienced broke up her entire family as they constantly found refuge however they were able. Although she never got the chance to meet her grandparents and extended family in her parents’ home country, Ireen is thankful for the family she now has with her.
Her father, the pastor of Light Mission Pentecostal Church, shares his story of becoming a Christian while in a refugee camp. The sounds of a choir drew him to a worship service, where he felt God speak to him. He then immediately “repented and vowed to serve the church.” Through his newfound relationship with God, he was able to lead his wife and surviving children to faith as well.
In 2009, Ireen and her family finally escaped their life of wars, starvation and other hardships and were accepted by United States immigration officials to come to the U.S. and Knoxville, Tennessee. Since then, she has earned her American citizenship and successfully completed two job training programs.
Ireen now works nights as a home health nurse, which reflects her caring and gentle nature. She dreams of starting a family in her new home and continuing the peaceful life she is so grateful to finally experience. She constantly thanks God for the peace she now knows.
“God is good – all the time,” says Ireen. Even with all the strife and challenges she has faced throughout her life, she remains positive and focus-driven. When asked how she feels about the Habitat program, she replies, “I always like to challenge myself, and I know I can do it.” In addition to working nighttime hours, Ireen is working to complete her 500 hours of sweat equity through budget classes and volunteer work.
With the support of generous sponsors, Ireen and her future family will experience the stability she never knew growing up. Her future children will be blessed with a secure Habitat home, the love of a strong, close-knit family and unlimited opportunities.