'I know single nails in this house': Freeport home a milestone for Habitat, homeowner

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FREEPORT — Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland on Tuesday dedicated the first of eight homes planned for Hummingbird Lane, a new development off West Street in downtown Freeport.

Nyapeni Doulthan, a Sudanese immigrant who came to Portland 15 years ago with the help of the United Nations, was effusive in her thanks to Habitat and the hundreds of volunteers who helped build her three-bedroom home.

“I will commit to maintaining my house,” she said, fighting back tears. “I will be a good citizen in this neighborhood.”

Over the past five years, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland has built four other single-family homes in downtown Freeport, but Hummingbird Lane represents the organization’s largest ever undertaking.

The town was owed back taxes on the lot, said Alexa Plotkin, Habitat’s ReStore volunteer manager. Habitat offered to pay the back taxes in exchange for the property, which led to planning of the eight-unit complex.

Doulthan’s house is part of a triplex whose other two residences are nearing completion. The foundation has been laid for a duplex next door, with plans to resume construction this spring, and another triplex will eventually go up across the street.

“Habitat homeowners pay mortgages,” Plotkin said, “and they become payers into the community, as opposed to taking money out of the system.”

Doulthan, who lived in Cairo, Egypt, for five years before coming to the U.S., is one of an estimated 3,500 Sudanese living in Maine – the state’s second largest immigrant population, after Somalians.

Doulthan works as a translator for Portland Public Schools’ Multilingual and Multicultural Center. She guessed her age is around 45. While volunteers and friends toured her new home, she said she has grown very comfortable in Maine.

“I feel it’s a good match for me – to raise my kids, to be safe, good schools,” said Doulthan, who has four children, ages 24, 22, 18 and 12. “I made friends who have really helped support me and my kids.”

Marino Mauein, an elder in the Maine Sudanese community, is one of them. Mauein gave a blessing during Tuesday’s dedication and said the house couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person.

“She’s very aggressive in helping our community,” Mauein said. “She’s always there, no questions asked. Last week, we had a tragic death in our community, and she was the first person there to comfort the family. She delivers a lot of good service, and sometimes when you help your community, you get paid back.”

The house is part of the Women Build project, a national program sponsored by Lowe’s that requires 75 percent of the work to be done by women. The houses typically go to women homeowners. Various Habitat chapters offer similar for-us, by-us programs for military veteran, religious and LGBT communities.

Like all Habitat homeowners, Doulthan rolled up her sleeves and took part in the construction of her dream dwelling.

“I know what’s hidden behind the walls of this house,” she said. “I know single nails in this house. It’s going to be full of the spirit of the volunteers – the love, the kindness. There are no ghosts in this house.”

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.

Sidebar Elements

Nyapeni Doulthan, a Sudanese immigrant who came to Portland 15 years ago, speaks on Tuesday, Feb. 18, at the dedication of her new home in Freeport. The home is part of the largest project undertaken by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland.

Doulthan’s new home on Hummingbird Lane in Freeport.