Akiko Gravender applied for Habitat's homeownership program in the spring of 2021 because she knows that paying rent does not help build equity for her future. She also wants to build a stable future for her children, her 15-year-old son Tatsu and 12-year-old daughter Mayu.
Akiko is a Japanese native. She moved to the United States after her marriage in 2008. She has faced many hardships since moving to the United States, not only the culture shock but the distance from family in friends in Japan, and in 2015 lost her mother due to cancer. Her marriage ultimately broke up in 2018 due to domestic violence. Akiko lived at YWCA's Safe Haven for six months before she was able to secure a safe place for herself and her children.
Akiko is a server at Hana Yori Restaurant, a substitute teacher, and taught Japanese and ESL classes at Purdue Northwest last year. She recently earned her Master's Degree and hopes to teach Japanese full time. While living at Safe Haven, Akiko took a brochure for Habitat for Humanity, which she held on to for three years. She said having the brochure "gave (her)
hope for the future." In April of 2021, Akiko attended her first Habitat homeownership meeting and applied for the program. She was accepted
into the homeownership program in July.
She wants to be a role model for her kids and teach them responsibility and reliability. Akiko says she appreciated the financial education classes and learned how to improve her credit, save for the future, declutter a home, and how to build one!
During her marriage, she was not included in construction decisions because it was seen "as a man's thing," but now she understands and appreciates the construction process. She especially loves how there is nothing there one day, and the next there is a foundation, and then walls and a house! Akiko knows that she "may fail at times, but there is an opportunity to learn." She loves working with the volunteers, and when asked about how she would feel working with the volunteers to build her own home, she choked up and said,
"I can't think how to deal with those emotions."
She feels volunteering takes a "special mindset," and helping with construction makes her feel "more connected to nature, peaceful and happy for the homeowner."
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