Every month Donaldo Hernandez leads members of his church on a journey that could change the trajectory of their lives. The church members are seeking immigration consulates over 150 miles away in Chicago and Detroit. Donaldo helps provide his congregation with the knowledge and resources to become United States citizens.
“There’s a lot of fear in the immigration process,” said Hernandez, a Habitat Kent homeowner who works at Church of the Restoration in Wyoming, MI. “There are lots of people in Michigan who are good people and indigenous people that are suffering.”
Hernandez and his family applied for the Habitat Kent homeownership program in 2011 after having his own personal immigration struggles.
“I was deported in 2007 and I was in Honduras for three and a half years working through this process.”
While Hernandez was thousands of miles from his family, he got a first-hand experience of Habitat’s impact globally.
“I was inspired by Habitat in Honduras,” Hernandez said. “These people were really blessed to be a part of this institution, but I never thought that in Michigan I was going to find Habitat.”
When he was reunited with his family in Michigan, Hernandez noticed Habitat Kent building homes for two African families near his church. This motivated him to apply for the program.
“I could see that Habitat didn’t have any specific preferences for anybody, everyone is the same.”
After facing adversity in his own journey, Habitat Kent was able to provide Hernandez with a new inspiration.
“I feel like when I came [to Habitat Kent], this is the United States,” Hernandez said. “The idea of democracy and a greater family is reflected in Habitat for Humanity.”
Two years have passed since Hernandez, his wife, and two children moved into their Habitat Kent home. Hernandez remains involved with Habitat Kent as construction volunteer and donor. His work at the church continues to focus on mentorship.
The Hernandez family host members of their church for small groups every week where they share a meal, study scripture and encourage each other through life’s challenges.
“[Habitat Kent] was a huge impact in every way; economically, spiritually, emotionally and the health of everyone in the family, “ Hernandez said.
His daughter is currently attending Calvin College and travels from their home to campus on her bike.
Hernandez still feels connected “emotionally and spiritually” to Habitat Kent through his volunteering and spiritual support.
“We always pray for Habitat to be able to have donors and people who are able to support the Habitat mission.”
Hernandez hopes to get his church more involved in serving Habitat Kent in the future.
“One part of the Christian life is faith, but the other part is action, your works,” Hernandez said. “This is what I see in Habitat, people who have both faith and action.”
ABOVE: Donaldo Hernandez and his family at their home dedication in 2013. RIGHT: The family present day at their home. His niece, pictured far left, lived with the family when they moved into their Habitat home.