Eliow Jok Eliow was 12 when he arrived in Spokane in July 2006.
He hadn’t seen his mother, Akout Agang, or his father, Georges Eliow, for almost 10 years. Separated by civil war in Sudan in the ‘90s, the family finally reunited with the help of Valley Fourth Memorial Church. And now the Eliows are taking another big step toward a new life.
Under a winter white sun Friday morning, Georges Eliow and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity raised the first wall of the family’s new home on East Union Avenue in Spokane Valley.
“The first time I talked to Habitat for Humanity, I was too new here. I didn’t qualify,” Georges Eliow said. “But I went right back some months later, and we qualified last year.”
Georges had left the rest of the family – which now also counts three girls, Akon, 7, Nebol, 5 and Adio, 3 – at home Friday because it was so cold, but he said everyone is looking forward to building the house.
“We can do the work, put the gravel down, paint and put the roof on,” he said, looking around the frozen construction site. The family will put in 500 hours of sweat equity.
Two other families are building homes at the same time.
Mike and Kelly Aquino and their children, Brittany, 9, and Dylan, 2, will be the Eliows’ neighbors on one side. Kelly Aquino is pregnant, and the family lives in a one-bedroom apartment so small the only place for Dylan’s crib is in the kitchen.
On the other side, Kim Dang will be moving in.
Dang is from Vietnam and was re-united with her family in Spokane in 1999.
“After living in the U.S. for five years, my parents and sister became U.S. citizens (and) sponsored 10 of us, including eight sisters, our brother and my daughter,” Dang wrote in an essay about her family. “Two months from the day I arrived in the U.S. I found a job.” The Dang family has been living in a three-bedroom house.
Georges Eliow can’t wait to get started on the project.
“We can do anything they need us to. This is our house,” he said with a big smile.