Home is where the heart is.
And soon Salah Salah and Fatma Al-Zabidi and their three children will have a house full of heart—and lots of them—thanks to a Habitat for Humanity build by a group of Lipscomb volunteers March 1 and 2 in Antioch, Tenn.
A team of 25 Lipscomb alumni, faculty, staff and students will work from 7:15 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. each day of the build. On Saturday, the team will install siding and insulation. The team will complete siding installation on Sunday.
“This Habitat project is a remarkable opportunity for Lipscomb alumni and students to work physically side-by-side and help change a family’s life for the better – and enjoying getting to know each other better at the same time,” said Rhonda Minton, director of alumni programs at Lipscomb University and coordinator of the project. “I’ve always believed we have an obligation to help others. It’s true, there’s no greater satisfaction than that which comes from giving of your own time and self for a better cause. We are excited about this collaboration with Habitat. I can only imagine how big God’s smile is when He sees His children serving others.”
Salah left Somalia’s capital city, Mogadischu, when he was 22 years old with his parents and two younger brothers. They moved to Yemen to escape civil war. He applied for a green card to the United States shortly after because “for everyone in Africa and the Middle East that’s the dream,” he said.
The United States embassy in Yemen was often closed, which delayed the processing of his paperwork, so he moved to Syria which was one of the most stable countries in the region at that time. His green card was approved in 2002 and he moved to Nashville where family friend Osman (who is now a Habitat homeowner) lived.
In 2005, Salah’s roommate introduced him to a Yemeni family living in Frankfurt, Germany, via phone. Salah quickly established a friendship with their daughter, Fatma, and traveled to Germany to meet her and her family in 2006. In 2008, he asked her family for permission to marry and, in 2009, she came to Nashville on a fiance visa with her daughter from a previous marriage, Rimas, who is now 8 years old. They married shortly afterward and soon welcomed son, Abdallah, 3, and daughter, Rinad, 1.
Salah has worked at Hertz since 2004. Fatma takes care of her family and home. Both say they would like to continue their education once they are settled in their new home. An avid sports fan, Salah was drafted to play on the Yemeni national basketball team, but broke his ankle before his Olympic debut. Fatma enjoys fashion and helping her friends try new hairstyles and makeup techniques. She has already been looking at wallpaper and paint samples for her new home.
The family currently lives in a crowded two-bedroom apartment. There are frequent break-ins in the complex and there is no place for the children to play outside. Salah and Fatma say they are looking forward to having a place of their own to call home. They believe homeownership will be the foundation for their family’s future.
“We want to have the best for our family,” said Salah. “We want to see our kids graduate and be successful. We are so grateful to be a part of Habitat; thank you for giving us this chance.”