Two Fitchburg families finally have homes they can call their own through Habitat for Humanity of Dane County.

The organization hosted a double home dedication Thursday, July 20, – for Tara and Guarani Rai and Lee Vang and Yeng Yang – where the public was invited to meet the new homeowners, take tours and enjoy some refreshments at 4605 and 4607 Unity Way.

A Habitat for Humanity of Dane County news release states that the homes, sponsored by Findorff, Bethel Lutheran Church and Fiskars mark the 288th and 289th Habitat homes built in the county – the 23rd and 24th homes built in the neighborhood.

Tara told the Star his family is originally from Bhutan. They were forced into refugee camps in Nepal in 1992 due to a civil war in their home country. He said they had to leave their Bhutan home and their property, and didn’t end up in the United States until 2011.

“Our life was very difficult in Nepal,” he said. “We lived in huts made of bamboo and thatch.”

Tara, however, said his family tried to make the best of a bad situation – he was still able to attend school and learn English.

“We were around 8,000 people – individual groups living in the huts,” Tara said. “That’s really sad to remember, but we are survivors.”

Tara, a young boy at the time, recalled doing his schoolwork by the light of a kerosene lamp. Though he was able to expand his mind, his family wasn’t able to extend beyond the borders of the camp.

“It felt like a small cage,” he said. “(The camp) provided education and food but that wasn’t enough.”

Through the United Nations, Tara’s family was able to make the journey to the U.S. on May 6, 2011. He reminisced about arriving to the airport, where a staff member from Bethel Lutheran Church and a Dane County case worker were both there to welcome his family with flowers. Tara recalled seeing “this beautiful country” for the first time. He had never seen such “light” he said.

Now, Tara and his wife since 2008, Guarani, and their two children have a three-bedroom home that’s “safe and secure.” Tara holds a full-time job and Guarani stays at home with the kids. He said the family looks forward to having a garden and yard.

The release states the other family, Lee, Yeng and their four daughters, “are grateful to finally fill a (home ownership) gap they struggled to fill for many years.”

According to the release, Lee was born in Madison and works as a Hmong translator and store manager for an alteration business.

“With a growing family, we knew we needed to take a big step and change the way we are living now,” he said in the release.

He said his family couldn’t rent forever, but they are proud to say they’ve found the home they’ve been looking for through Habitat.

The Habitat for Humanity website states that in order to qualify for a Habitat home, an applicant must demonstrate a need for safe and affordable housing, partner with Habitat throughout the home building process through “sweat equity” and be able and willing to pay an affordable mortgage, which gets cycled back into the community. Anyone can apply for a Habitat home, and the organization considers each house an investment, the website states.

Both Lee and Tara thanked Habitat and sponsors for their generosity and for helping them build not just a house, but a foundation for a better life.

“Our family is very happy and safe,” Tara said.