Finding Their Forever Home: Ma Thu Sa and San Aung’s Journey to Homeownership

Ma Thu Sa and San Aung’s journey to their Habitat Omaha home started 8,339 miles away in a refugee camp in Thailand. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2014, there were 111,000 Karen refugees looking for new opportunities in a city such as Omaha, and San Aung and his family were four of 501 Karen refugees who came to Nebraska. The couple arrived in Omaha on March 23 that year with their two children.

The family then moved into an affordable apartment in town. Their landlord was kind, but the family faced many challenges in this living situation. Loud neighbors kept them awake, and they worried about gun violence in the apartment and neighborhood. The couple expressed through Habitat Omaha Family Services Program Associate and translator Blue Wah, “Our apartment was not a comforting place.”

They found Habitat Omaha’s Almost Home program after looking for affordable housing options. They applied to and were accepted into, this program in April 2021.

Once completing program requirements, the family began the search for their new home. After touring 10 properties, they discovered the four-bedroom home sponsored by FNBO was perfect for them.

“The kitchen is near the back door. I can just open the back door and go to the backyard. That makes me happy,” Ma Thu Sa said.

In late October, the homeowners, their children, additional family members, Habitat Omaha staff and members of FNBO’s social responsibility team gathered to celebrate the family at their home dedication.

The event kicked off with Habitat Omaha CEO, Amanda Brewer welcoming the family into their new home. She also touched on FNBO’s 24-year-long partnership with Habitat Omaha and how their support has been key in supporting Habitat Omaha’s mission.

After Brewer’s remarks, FNBO Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility Spencer Danner expressed what a privilege it is to be a part of great moments like home dedications.

After these remarks came the most exciting moment of the event. Danner presented Ma Thu Sa and San Aung with the keys to their brand-new home. The family also received a Welcome Home Basket from Habitat Omaha staff and a toolkit from the Habitat Omaha Friend’s board.
After these gifts, the family participated in a new dedication tradition of ribbon-cutting. Ma Thu Sa, San Aung, and their four children gathered on the porch in front of a large red ribbon in front of their steps. Sa Aung then had the honor of cutting the ribbon in front of their new home. Their new chapter as homeowners had officially begun.
After the ribbon cutting, family, friends, members of FNBO’s corporate responsibility team and Habitat Omaha staff enjoyed eating a Karen meal of coconut noodle soup, fried noodle salad, and other traditional foods provided by the new homeowners. Everyone had the chance to celebrate all the hard work Ma Thu Sa and San Aung had done to achieve this milestone.
As Ma Thu Sa and San Aung start their new chapter in their home, they are thankful that a local company like FNBO has partnered with Habitat Omaha to build a home.