Meet Abebaye Mengistu

Originally from Ethiopia, Abebaye received the chance of a lifetime in 2004 when she was selected via lottery to receive a visa to come to the United States under the Diversity Visa Program. She and her husband came here hoping for greater opportunities and a safe place to raise their adopted son, Lulu. They had to leave Lulu behind in Ethiopia until they could provide a stable place to live and attain citizenship. They lived and worked in the U.S. for four years, then, in 2008, Abebaye received the devastating news that she had Leukemia. Shortly after her diagnosis, her husband of 16 years filed for divorce.  Abebaye felt abandoned in her greatest time of need and was forced to move in with her sister, Dihre, and her two children, who were living in Austin at the time.  Abebaye continued to try and get Lulu to Austin, but due to her health issues as well as her financial and housing instability she was not yet allowed to.

Abebaye has been receiving chemotherapy for some time now while working tirelessly to better her situation. Her parents moved from Ethiopia last year and are now also living in her sister’s three bedroom home. Abebaye sleeps on the couch which has been troublesome for her during her chemo treatments. She finds it hard to get comfortable and stay cool. She works for a quality support company for technology products and tries hard to contribute to her sister’s household. Her father, who is 78, works as a janitor to help pay the bills and her mother does her part cooking and cleaning for the family.

Abebaye found out about Austin Habitat from a Habitat homeowner and began working with our housing counselors to begin the program. She plans to have her parents move into her new home with her so that her sister can “have a break and focus on her children.” Her employer has been incredibly supportive by being flexible with her scheduling and some of her coworkers have even come out to help her complete her 300 sweat equity hours. Her father is also out as often as possible swinging a hammer to help out.

Abebaye loves meeting the people who are helping her every step of the way. “They show me a lot of love and teach me a lot of things. They could watch a movie at home but they choose to help. They are full of love,” she says. Abebaye is overwhelmed with emotions about how far she has come since her diagnosis and divorce. She is encouraged that her health is improving and she will have a better chance of Lulu, now 12, coming to live with her. She cannot thank the donors, volunteers and staff enough for their support. She says, “This house- helps my sister, my parents, my son, my health and my finances. For the first time in a long time, I am excited for my future.” Fearless and determined, her next goal is to attend college and carve out a meaningful life in the United States.