By Monicia Warner, Volunteer Storyteller
Duc and his mom immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam in 1996 when he was 8-years-old. They lived in a one-bedroom apartment in North Portland; Duc remembers close quarters and very little privacy in the small unit.
“Honestly, privacy was the challenging part of it,” he said. “I had to share the room with my mom and sometimes I had to live in the living room so that she could have the bedroom to herself for privacy.”
At the time, his mom worked as a janitor and often found it difficult to make rent payments each month.
“The rent was extremely high for my mom to afford,” he said. “It was often a bit challenging because you have to worry about the monthly payment and also on occasion where she was having a hard time paying her rent.”
When they secured a Habitat home in 2005, in many ways, it was a lifeline. Duc was a junior in high school and still figuring out what career path he wanted to pursue. After putting in many hours of sweat equity on what was to become his family’s new home, Duc developed a keen interest in construction as a career.
“Habitat kind of opened a door for me in the construction field,” he said. “I started to do construction and wanted to learn the trades a bit more.”
This interest led him to Boise State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. Recently, he’s been able to apply his degree and all that he’s learned to make improvements to his mom’s home.
“I’ve been working on my mom’s house, changing the floor from carpet to hardwood floors, doing a little bathroom remodel, and I’m working on changing laminate flooring to tile flooring,” he said. “I’m trying to preserve that house as much as possible.”
After 15 years of being in their Habitat home, Duc and his mom still feel a lot of gratitude. Duc credits Habitat for helping him become active in the community through volunteer work, including a 7-year run as an interpreter for Habitat. He also noted a change in his mom’s demeanor since she became a homeowner.
“She is very happy that she has a house and she feels like it’s something that she’s proud of,” he said. “It’s an asset to her;she takes full responsibility.”
On top of providing affordable homes for those in need, Duc believes that Habitat is doing vital work to help people feel connected to the community.