By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities
RICHLAND, Wash. – Ma Thu Sha La was an infant in 1982 when his family left his home country of Burma, fleeing what quickly became a war zone.
“Soldiers came into the village and we couldn’t live there anymore,” he said through a translator. “They started killing people. We were scared we might be next. Everyone left.”
As refugees in Papu, Thailand, his family shared a one-bedroom bamboo hut alongside thousands of others. They struggled for low-paying jobs in road construction and weren’t allowed to seek employment outside the camp. Ma Thu said sometimes, despite hours of grueling road work, they would not see a paycheck for their efforts.
“It was hard,” he said. “But the worst part was the waiting. We lived in the dark, not knowing what was going on.”
In 2011, after years in the refugee camp, Ma Thu and his wife, Lu Dee, whom he married in 2003, received word they would be coming to the United States after applying and being approved for their green cards.
Once in the U.S., they aspired to own their own home, but they didn’t know if the feat was possible. In their first few years in the U.S., the family shared a two-bedroom apartment in Pasco, Wash., on Ma Thu’s salary of $25,000.
Last year, the family was approved for a three-bedroom, 1,200 square feet house after applying through the Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity. Sponsored and built in partnership with Washington State University Tri-Cities, the home is one of 24 themed houses sponsored by various local organizations as part of Habitat’s Whitehouse Addition Project in Pasco.
To make their home a reality, WSU Tri-Cities must raise approximately $80,000 to supplement the building and enable Habitat to sell it to the family at an affordable price with no-interest loans. The family is required to dedicate 500 sweat equity hours to construction.
Donations may be made to the program by contacting Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of advancement and community engagement, at email@example.com or 509-372-7398.
“This is an opportunity to provide for a family that has lived a life unimaginable to many,” Fincher said. “For years, this family dreamed of a home. This is our chance to give them one. Any donation will go directly into this project.”
He said there are also opportunities to lend a hand with building the project. This week, which is spring break for WSU, the public is invited to help with construction of the home, which is located at 304 N. Charles St., Pasco. The dates and hours to volunteer this week are:
• Wednesday, March 16: 8 a.m.–4 p.m. with free lunch
• Friday, March 18: 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
• Saturday, March 19: 8 a.m.–4 p.m.
Volunteering requires no previous construction experience and all equipment is provided on site. To sign up to volunteer, visit https://orgsync.com/125400/events?view=upcoming. For more information on the Coug House, visit http://tricities.wsu.edu/cougsinthecommunity/coughouse.
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, firstname.lastname@example.org