Nelia and Renato moved into their home in the first phase of Kaua`i Habitat’s Ele`ele Iluna subdivision in early 2009. The Lunas came to Kaua`i from the Philippines and have two daughters. Both Nelia and Renato found jobs on the island, but Renato was out of work for three months after the Gay & Robinson sugar plantation closed. “We never thought that we would qualify for a house, but we are very fortunate,” he said.
After learning about Habitat at a home ownership seminar, the Lunas were selected as one of the first 16 families to build homes in the Ele`ele Iluna subdivision. They started volunteering with Kaua`i Habitat in 2005 and loved working with the energetic local and mainland volunteers who gave their time to build. Renato’s brothers, brothers-in-law and friends all came to work on the house together whenever they could. By 2007, the Lunas had all their ‘sweat equity’ hours complete – even before their own house was finished! Renato still comes out to volunteer as often as he can. Although building their own home was a challenge, Renato said it was well worth the effort and felt a great sense of accomplishment. “You feel proud because you built your own house – someone else didn’t build it for you,” he says.