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Kiyosha's Habitat journey

 
 

Now an AmeriCorps Repair Crew Leader, Kiyosha Bacon grew up in a Habitat home in Philadelphia. At our 10th Anniversary Building Hope Luncheon, she shared her story:

“I’m Kiyosha Bacon – but most people call me Yoshi. North Philly is home – the block behind the Habitat offices on Gratz Street is where I live.

My Habitat story started when I was two years old when my mom purchased our Habitat home. My older sisters were 10 and 18 at the time. Even though I was a toddler, my mom says I thought we lived in the suburbs compared to the cramped apartment where we had been living. We finally had our own space, and a big back yard. It seemed more like the American Dream.  

When I think about what my life might have been like without growing up in a stable home, the thing that stands out most is that I got to spend time with my mom, and still do! Our Habitat home made it so that she only had to work one job, and we had plenty of time to be together as a family.  Our home was a safe haven for my immediate family and for extended family who might need a place to stay every now and then. We celebrated a lot of birthdays, spent a lot of time with cousins, and had many cookouts there.   

I graduated from Mastery Charter in 2016, and kept very busy with school activities. I played flag football, basketball, and was the vice president of student government my senior year. I was accepted to several colleges…Cabrini, Albright… and even got a few scholarships, but I knew I just wasn’t ready to make the most of a college education. I needed to grow up a little bit first, so I worked a few jobs in the neighborhood to make some money. My older sister encouraged me to get a job at the post office, but I knew it was the kind of job where I might end up doing the same thing for the next 20 years, and that’s not what I saw for myself. I wanted a different opportunity, and I mostly wanted to find something meaningful, where I could be part of something bigger than me.    

Kiyosha on site at International Women Build Day

I am eight months into my year of service with AmeriCorps at Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. Working with the Repairs Team, I get to learn new skills and am giving back. It’s amazing that the things that seem little to me are huge and life-changing for the homeowners that I work alongside.    

I worked on a repair project where the roof had leaked and rotted out the kitchen, cabinets, and the floor.  When everything was done, the homeowner shed tears of joy. It really showed how big of a deal Habitat’s work is for people. All of the Repair Team left with tear drops on our red staff shirts that day!   

My mom is proud because she can tell that I am truly happy with this work. I have learned enough skills to launch my own drywall business, Holemies. Catch me after this to grab my business card!

I’m almost finished with my first big project at my cousin’s house. Working on the Repair Team has helped me get a better understanding on what I want to study when I do go to college. I still feel I have a lot to learn, so I think another year of AmeriCorps may be in the cards for me. I am even considering a year with AmeriCorps somewhere different like Hawaii. It’s a personal goal of mine to be able to travel and see as much of the world as I can, so it would be amazing to combine these experiences.

I love the challenge of repairs. The work is hard, and it’s never the same day twice. I remember my sister talking about trying to hide in the shade while helping my mom with sweat equity hours, so I should have known Habitat is a challenge! We have to find creative ways to remedy issues in homeowner’s houses. At the end of the day, I get to see the impact of my work on not just the home, but on the homeowners themselves. 

It’s pretty cool for me to have grown up in a Habitat home and be a member of the Habitat Home Repair Team. It’s motivating to be part of the impact Habitat has on the neighborhoods around me.  

One of my proudest moments was being able to give HUD Regional Administrator Joseph DeFelice, a tour of the home where Habitat completed our 500th home repair in Sharswood. I had just repaired Ms. Marabelle’s bannister, and I was so proud of the work.  He was so impressed with my commitment.    

Ms. Marabelle lives at 23rd and Oxford Streets, where our new construction team will break ground on 20 new Habitat homes next week. Habitat’s work in Sharswood is bigger than repairs and new homes. Our neighborhood revitalization work there ties everything together, where more families will benefit and the whole community is lifted up.

That is my Habitat story.   

Here is what Habitat’s neighborhood revitalization story is all about.”