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Burundi family's dream comes true

Four years ago, Claver and Edisa Sango were homeless refugees who were trying to raise a family, living in abject poverty in a squalid Congolese refugee camp.

Today, the Sangos own a new four-bedroom house in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

"I'm very happy," Claver Sango said Sunday, through an interpreter. "In the refugee camp, I had no hope, no dream of having my own home."

But the Clarence Habitat Coalition made the American Dream possible for the couple from Burundi.

Through the coalition, Clarence residents raised $85,000 and worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for the Sangos in Buffalo.

The four-bedroom, 1,350-square-foot ranch house on Fox Street was dedicated Sunday.

"Immigrants have so much to offer, and they have so much to overcome -- language, culture differences," said Monsignor Fred Leising of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church. "So we wanted to help them better integrate in the community and welcome them."

Claver Sango, 32, was born in the Congolese refugee camp because his family fled Burundi decades ago. He and his family came to the U.S. in 2008.

The couple and their four children, ages 3 to 12, have been living crammed in a three-bedroom apartment in North Buffalo. The father is an assembler at Tectran; his wife does packaging for Goya foods.

Now, not only will they have more space, but with the Habitat for Humanity subsidy and zero-interest loan, their mortgage will be less than their rent.

"I'm so excited; we can't wait to move in," said Edisa Sango, through an interpreter. "I love the kitchen. It's so big, and all the appliances are brand new. I've never had that before in a rental house."

The plans for the Sangos house began in 2010, when the Clergy Association of Clarence decided to build another Habitat for Humanity home. The objective was to raise $80,000, but efforts brought in $85,000 in financial and in-kind donations. The association built its first Habitat home in 2002.

"We thought it was about time to do it again," Leising said. "In the past 10 years, Clarence has doubled in population, and our congregations have doubled. Our congregations agreed to make financial contributions or join the work force."

Churches, schools and civic groups organized fundraisers, such as Clarence High School's "sleep-out." The high school, East Hill Foundation and United Methodist Church were among donors who contributed more than $1,000. Students from the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture framed the house over a three-week period and received course credit.

Construction began last May. More than 400 Clarence residents volunteered their time to build the house over the nine-month period.

In keeping with Habitat's policy, the Sangos invested 500 hours of "sweat equity" in the construction, along with $300, in order to qualify for the mortgage held by Habitat Buffalo.

"Thank you for the house, and may God bless you all," 12-year-old Alice Sango, speaking on behalf of her family, said to the volunteers gathered in the basement of the home for the dedication.