Unity 3, in memory of Melissa Dugas Gutierrez

The Unity 3 home, in memory of Melissa Dugas Gutierrez, is a collaborative effort among the faith-based community in Albuquerque. Various churches, synagogues and mosques have joined forces over the years to do God’s work together by volunteering their time and financially supporting the construction of decent, affordable homes. We are truly honored to have so many partners and friends working to help further our mission.

The Unity 3 home is named in Melissa’s memory because of her strong faith and  the loving support of her family and friends who wanted to honor her life in a very special way. During the opening ceremony Jean Dugas, Melissa’s mother spoke about Melissa’s life, her faith, and interest in helping others. Jean said, “I know the partner family working diligently toward their goal of owning this house will have Melissa’s love within those walls. Melissa would tell you that a house is a place in which to live, but a home is in the people who dwell within that house.”

Meet the Unity 3 Habitat Family

Zindagi was born in a small town in Afganistan in 1991. Living in Afganistan at that time was difficult and scary, her family struggled to make ends meet and lived in constant fear of the Taliban. In 2003, her family fled to Pakistan in pursuit of a safer life. They lived in Pakistan for the next 12 years.

LtoR: Jeff Payne, GAHH Board President, Marilyn Stoops, volunteer with St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Bill Reilly, GAHH Construction Manager, Jean and Jay Dugas, volunteers and the parents of Melissa standing with the family who will be purchasing and moving into the Unity 3 home in the fall of 2018.

Unfortunately, Pakistan was just as problematic as Afghanistan. “In Pakistan, I became a child bride at the age of 14 and gave birth to my daughter at the age of 15. A couple of months before her birth, my husband died of kidney failure. Again, we were without money, living in extreme poverty and struggling to find work,” said Zindagi. “We continued to live under the  fearsome influence of terrorist groups. We did not know hope. We lacked a real home, adequate education and had little opportunity to feel secure. Our only goal was survival.” Eventually, they applied for refugee status with the United Nations and finally made it to Albuquerque in 2015.

“When I first arrived to this country with my daughter as  a single mother, I did not have any possessions, I did not speak any English, I had no car and no job and I did not know anyone living here. Since then, I have been attending English classes and working hard to improve my language skills. I have happily found full-time employment and have learned a great deal about financial responsibility and budgeting.” Her daughter has been attending public school and is acclimating to the new culture well and they are much happier and safer than ever before.

“There are no words to explain the gratitude we feel to the United States for the aid and protection we receive, as well as to the community members who have offered support. For the first time, we are able to feel secure. Our futures are finally filled with hope, happiness and opportunity. I still strive to have my own house to raise my daughter. To have a  permanent place for us to call home would mean the world to us. I want to show her the best life possible and provide her the resources to become a successful and fulfilled young woman,” said Zindagi.