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November 30, 2012
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Immigrant family celebrates new home in Eagle

EAGLE, Colorado - Soulemane Bibikari didn't know exactly what forms he filled out about 18 months ago - he just hoped those papers could help his family. Bibikari and his family Wednesday became the latest Habitat for Humanity family in the Vail Valley.

It was the Bibikaris' oldest child, daughter Kadia, who brought home that paperwork, which dad Soulemane filled out. It was only after Habitat for Humanity made a follow-up call that Soulemane realized his family had a chance to move from their apartment at the EagleBend complex in Avon into a home of their own.

The Bibikaris - Soulemane, mom Hawa and their five kids, put in more than 500 hours of volunteer labor on their home - a half-duplex in a seven-unit Habitat enclave on the west end of The Bluffs neighborhood in Eagle. Their unit is the biggest - five kids need a lot of room - and the next-to-last unit completed in the mini-neighborhood.

The family's work on their new home is just the start of their relationship with Habitat. Families buy their homes - with interest-free loans - and also agree to help other Habitat families, mostly by providing volunteer labor on future projects.

For Soulemane, a permanent home is just part of his American dream. The family came to this country from Senegal about a decade ago. For the last nine years, Soulemane has been on the banquet team at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek. Hawa joined the crew at the Hyatt about two years ago.

During the celebration, which packed the family's new living room, Hyatt general manager Robert Purdy praised by the Bibikaris and the entire team at the Hyatt.

"We've been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for the last 15 years," Purdy said. "This year, our volunteer efforts had a special meaning... When we found out one of our families would get a Habitat home, our team volunteered 240 hours of labor."

It takes thousands of hours of volunteer labor to build a Habitat home. Brent Palmer, one of the local project managers, said it takes about nine months to build one of Habitat's "simple, decent and affordable" homes. With the exception of work that licensed professionals need to do - including electricity and plumbing - volunteer labor builds virtually all of those homes.

Now in their new home, the Bibikaris were all smiles Wednesday, with a home full of old and new friends, and pots of food simmering on the new range.

"This is very exciting," said son Aboul, the middle kid in the family.

Soulemane speaks only halting English, but was clear in his gratitude for the opportunity provided by these volunteers, and his adopted homeland.

"I'm going to live here forever," he said.


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 30, 2012 09:19PM Published Nov 30, 2012 09:15PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.