Norbert Runyambo and Laurence Mukabatsinda are originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The family left for a refugee camp in Rwanda due to the genocide taking place in their home country. Ten years ago they moved to Maine, and then decided to relocate to North Carolina because of the weather and the increased educational and career opportunities for their children.
In the Congo, Laurence worked for a nonprofit that served women and orphans. Currently, she works as a nanny. Norbert was the Medical Director for South Kivu, a province of five million people. When he moved to the United States, he could not transfer his license as a physician, so he helped people who had disabilities in their homes. Now Norbert is retired, and spends his time with his family, and on the Habitat construction site—he has already completed 250 of his family’s required 325 hours of sweat equity! He plans to continue volunteering with Habitat even after their home is finished.
Norbert and Laurence have eight children—Esther, Daniella, Gentille, Paul, Michee, Loetitia, Jonathan, and Lydia. They also host their niece, Joelle, for part of the summer. The family is close knit, and Norbert and Laurence have encouraged their children to pursue their education. Many of the children take after their father’s interest in medicine, and some have expressed interest in economics, mechanical engineering, and computer science.
The family currently lives in Chapel Hill in a three-bedroom apartment. There are always at least eight people in the apartment, so space is tight. The family has always wanted a home, and they feel that it is especially important to feel settled after having lived as refugees. In addition, renting is very expensive and they will save money by having a Habitat home. The children want a stable place for their parents to live. In the future, they hope to take their own children there to visit.