The OCP Blog

Featured Volunteer of the Month: Estifanos Habterman

In a recent podcast, I talked about seeing success and failure as part of a journey, rather than an outcome. This concept couldn’t describe anybody better than our features volunteer of the month, Mr. Estifanos Habterman. Born in Eritrea, Mr. Habterman has lived through civil wars in the Horn of Africa. He gave up everything and decided to move away from his ancestral land.

Arriving in the US in 2009, Mr. Habterman first landed in Houston, TX, seeking to improve his life and access economic opportunity and stability. Yet without his people, he felt alone. He moved to join his brother in Seattle, WA. His brother helped him find work with Valley Parking – IPM. He stayed for a few months, and he later moved to Harrisonburg, VA. He’d heard Harrisonburg is a friendly city, a welcoming place for people from far-away homes. He was able to bring his wife and daughter thanks to employment at Cargill and city resources for new immigrants. We always want to be supported, acknowledged and loved. Finding a place that offers such resources – in addition to employment, even when it’s not an ideal opportunity – means finding a kind of home.

Many immigrants have left their homes to come to the US for a better life. Our featured volunteer of the month, Mr. Habterman, took only a few months working for an industrial corporation to understand that the so-called American dream was not necessarily a better life. He was not able to provide for his family the way he could at home in Eritrea, and working conditions were far from the American dream one sees on TV. Depression kicked in, and Mr. Habterman was acting in on himself in response. His wife was due to deliver their second child, and he was unable to provide for family needs. He coped with his depression by leaving Harrisonburg to move to Philadelphia, where his wife found work. Yet the high cost of living led them to return to Harrisonburg, where he heard about Our Community Place.

The first time he walked into OCP, he was surprised by the resources provided, the likes of which he had not seen before. This place – Our Community Place – gave an uplifting, rejuvenating and comforting feeling, that allowed our featured volunteer of the month, Mr. Estifanos Habterman, to be at ease. He understands that choices we make in life can either uplift us or allow us to stay frozen. As he has started showing the spirit of volunteerism, giving time and joyful energy at OCP, today Mr. Estifanos Habterman has allowed himself to experience transformation from freeze/flight to belonging, healing, and building resilience.

Leons Kabongo

Program & Activities Coordinator