As a 7th grade teacher at Mansfield Middle School for the past thirteen years, Elizabeth is no stranger to hard work, patience, and resilience. But Elizabeth, Cesar, and their four teenaged children Jailene, Jazelle, Gizelle, and Cesar Jr. have been renting a cramped house for the past six years. Everyone’s squeezed in tight. The girls sleep in the living room on couches. The boys share a bedroom, and the patio is packed with storage. Privacy? Forget it! Not only is the house filled well beyond capacity, but also has flooring issues and a leak in the roof causing summertime mold. And in the winter, poor insulation led to huge heating bills.
Being accepted into the Habitat homeownership program this year has been life-changing.For Elizabeth, it means a chance to work with her children not only as their teacher and mother, but also their fellow builder. Elizabeth jokes that Jailene and Gizelle have been nicknamed the ‘official caulkers’ at the build site. “Any time caulking is needed, they called the girls over. They like their attention to detail,” she says. “All the volunteers are so patient with us. We really learn a lot. Drywall, the caulking, the framing of the doors.”
For Jailene and Gizelle, this experience has brought their family closer together.
“We’re all in it together, we’re all feeling the same things. It compels us to do more for each other, and for our parents,” says Jailene.
“It’s all because we’ve been helped so much,” adds Cesar, smiling, hammering the first nails into their future home.