Where the Heart is

Durga’s community and family were in danger. The growing violence and systematic ethnic cleansing in Bhutan made it unsafe for his family to stay in the country they called home.

After being forced to flee Bhutan, Durga came to the U.S. as a refugee, with a dream of building a better life. He wanted a home where his children could feel safe. A place where his family could feel connected to their schools, neighbors, and community.

Durga and his wife, Tara, originally resettled in the U.S. in 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. When the family moved to Iowa in 2015, they knew they had found the right place to build a foundation for themselves. Like many Iowans, Durga and Tara decided they wanted to become homeowners.

But the prospect of saving enough money for a down payment was daunting. A friend connected Durga and Tara with LSI’s Refugee Community Services, where they enrolled in the Individual Development Accounts (IDA) matched savings program.

The program assists former refugees with financial education and access to matching programs to help save for major purchases — like a car or home — or higher education goals like college enrollment. Durga received one-on-one coaching from his LSI worker, Ben, to prepare to close on a home.

“The program motivated us to set up an account so that we could put away our money,” Durga says.

In partnership with Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity — and thanks to the funds they’d earned through LSI’s IDA program — Durga and Tara received the keys to their first home last year.

“Going to the dedication of that house and seeing Durga’s family, seeing his community and everyone who helped work on this house with him was really rewarding and nourishing,” Ben says.

Durga is especially grateful to watch his children, ages 13 and 7, play in the backyard of their new home. They are surrounded by neighbors who have welcomed them into the community with open arms. The family has found their forever home in Iowa, and Durga is grateful for the support and encouragement he received from Ben and from LSI.

“LSI helped us to overcome our circumstances,” he says. “They were there to help us take this big step for our family.”

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