Refugee family's sacrifice pays off

Like many, Benoit Muyuka was skeptical when he first heard about the Individual Development Account (IDA) program administered by the Community Loan Fund.

“When I was told that I would get $3 for every $1 that I saved in the IDA, I didn’t trust them,” said the father of six.

Benoit MuyukaHe took a chance anyway and, with his wife, Jeannine Lisika, started two IDA accounts.

“My children didn’t enjoy the sacrifice but I said to them, ‘Just give me a year or two,’ ” he said.

Twelve months later, he purchased a four-bedroom clapboard home in a quiet neighborhood in Manchester, with a lilac bush in the front yard and a garage apartment in the back for rent.

Benoit, a trained electrical engineer, gained political asylum in the United States in 1999 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was followed two years later by his wife and their children. They learned English, found jobs in Manchester and discovered the IDA program.

The program, started by the Community Loan Fund and its community partners in 2001, helps low-earning families save money to buy homes, start or expand small businesses or attend college or get technical training. To earn a $3-to-$1 match, IDA savers must attend personal finance and money management workshops, and receive training specific to their savings goal.

“This is an absolutely great program,” said Linda Purdy of Manchester Neighborhood Housing Services (now NeighborWorks® Greater Manchester), an IDA partner. “It allows people to reach for the stars. They’re building an asset and building their future.”

The family is happy with the result.

“If you are living in your own home, you feel free,” said Jeannine. “You have your independence.”

This story was published in the Community Loan Fund's 2003 Annual Report.