Habitat for Humanity aids GCU employee

Story and photos by Cooper Nelson
GCU News Bureau

Kimanuka Nkumbuyinka is just happy to have a bathroom. But not in the way you'd  think.

Nkumbuyinka, a Grand Canyon University maintenance worker who goes by his middle name, Boscoe, recently was selected for a sponsorship to have a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house built for him and his family through the Habitat for Humanity neighborhood revitalization initiative.  GCU has partnered with Habitat to renovate homes in its local neighborhood through the nonprofit's Canyon Corridor Project.

Nkumbuyinka, a Congo native who spent 10 years as a refugee in Rwanda, lives in a cramped three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment near campus with his wife and seven children, ages 2 to 19. He applied for sponsorship after his friend, another Congo native who had his house built through Habitat, suggested he attempt to better his current living conditions.

“Imagine having three bedrooms and only two baths for nine people with little kids,” said Nkumbuyinka, 39. “You see why I am happy?”

Nearly 30 volunteers, including Nkumbuyinka’s wife, two friends and 10 GCU students, were at the site of the family’s future residence at sunrise Saturday to hammer the roof and exterior walls to the 1,800-square-foot house. Construction began in early October and will be completed in January.

“We are all very happy,” said Nkumbuyinka, who wore an orange “future homeowner” T-shirt and a smile the entire morning while applying drywall. “Last Sunday my youngest son asked to go view the house after church. He can’t wait until we move in.”

Habitat, through its sponsor company Whirlpool, will donate a refrigerator and stove top oven to the family and offer discounts on other appliances. Habitat will complete every facet of the building process, from laying the foundation and installing electric and plumbing to painting and landscaping. Volunteers will work every Saturday and some weekdays to finish the project.

Most Saturdays, Habitat volunteers are building or renovating nearly 30 homes across Arizona.

On Oct. 22, GCU announced a partnership with Habitat, which includes a four-phase plan to build and renovate an entire community of local residences with the help of GCU student and staff volunteers. Saturday’s build served as the second of four planned training events for students who will serve as team leaders when phase one – an 18-month initiative – launches in January. To read more on the partnership, click here.

GCU freshman Sofia Montanez volunteered for Habitat for the first time on Saturday with two friends.

Even with Halloween the night before, Montanez made sure she and her friends were ready when the Habitat van arrived on campus at 6:30 a.m.

“It’s really cool for us students to be a part of an employee’s life and see that GCU really cares about the people that work there,” said the 18-year-old. “I came out today because I really like helping people, and it’s really cool to see everyone come together to build this house because they want to and not because they’re paid to.”

Todd Buckner, Habitat’s assistant director for the neighborhood revitalization initiative, said he was pleased with the turnout and hard work of the students. He expects nearly 30 GCU team leaders and hundreds of volunteers when phase one officially begins in January.

Although Buckner has helped build or renovate more than 500 homes, he said the smiles of new homeowners never get old.

“It’s very heartwarming to help people, and you can tell Boscoe is very happy that we are here building this house for him,” Buckner said. “The coolest thing for me is everybody we help always seems to catch the ‘Habitat bug.’ After we come out and help them, they want to continue to spread the joy they received to others.

“I think Boscoe has already caught the bug and wants to pay it forward, and that’s why we’re excited to be working with GCU because it’s filled with people who care and want to help.”

As part of his agreement with Habitat, Nkumbuyinka must volunteer 400 hours, 200 of which must be used on his own home. From the sound of it, he already has been bitten.

“I won’t stop when I have finished the 400 hours,” he said. “They helped me, so I will continue to work until all the work is done.”

Contact Cooper Nelson at 602-639-7511 or [email protected].

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