Habitat begins ‘Women Build’: Recipient finds it’s easier to give than receive but is overjoyed at prospect of a home

May 2009 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Kristine Thomas

It is effortless for Nadya Seledkov to give – whether it’s to her family and friends or as a volunteer.

Habitat for Humanity
To volunteer for or donate to this project,
call 503-845-2434, email estewart@nwvhfh.org,
or visit www.nwvhfh.org

“The best and most rewarding feeling you can ever have is when have made a difference in someone’s life,” she wrote in May 2007 in “The Traditional Old Believer,” a newspaper for the Russian Old Believer community.

It is accepting help that Seledkov finds extremely difficult.

“I come from a proud family,” she said.

She knew for her children’s sake she would have to swallow her pride and ask for assistance.

Seledkov and her children, Tonya, 10; Mikel, 9; and Aquilina, 7, live in an apartment inside a pole barn on her parent’s farm in Hubbard. Her ex-husband is incarcerated in Minnesota and does not provide financial support.

“This is a good temporary place to stay but it’s not our home or our sanctuary,” she said. “A home should be a person’s sanctuary.”

Seledkov said her parents’ pole barn is used two to three times a month for weddings and Russian Old Believer holidays.

“Every time there is an event, I have to take the children and go to a hotel or motel,” she said. “It’s very difficult to pack up all Tonya’s medical equipment and the children’s things and find a hotel to stay in.”

Tonya, who has Spina Bifida and epileptic seizures, is in a wheelchair. Seledkov can’t stay with family because their homes aren’t wheelchair accessible.

“It’s very stressful for Tonya to have a change in her environment and it’s getting difficult for me to carry her,” she said. “It’s very important for me to create a stable environment for my children with less stress.”

A licensed massage therapist, Seledkov has tried for four years to purchase a home. “I knew for my children to flourish, I would have to ask for help,” she said.

She turned to the North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity, which began in 1986 in Mt. Angel. Habitat for Humanity is an international, nonprofit organization founded in 1976 as an ecumenical Christian housing ministry. Together, the selected family and volunteers build a home. The recipient must contribute 500 hours of volunteer work to Habitat for Humanity as well as make payments on a zero-interest mortgage.

Last fall, as Seledkov was driving home from the hospital, she received a phone call from Habitat for Humanity telling her she was chosen to have a home built in Silverton for her family. She said she pulled her car over at a store and screamed and jumped for joy with her children.

On April 26, volunteers, Seledkov and her family gathered to break ground for the house that will be wheelchair accessible. It is to be completed by the fall.

“I had faith this would happen,” she said. “Yet, it still seems so unbelievable to have a place of our own.”

This project is the first time the North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity is participating in a Women’s Build. Board member Lisa Leslie said Habitat for Humanity is partnering with Lowe’s, which gave the nonprofit organization $5,000 in gift cards for the Seledkov home. The idea of the Women Build project, Leslie said, is to encourage and train women to be active participants in a home construction process. Lowe’s will host workshops for volunteers.

“It’s a little scary but we are going to give it a try to build a home exclusively with women builders,” Leslie said, adding, “Guys are welcome too.” The general contractor is Jeff Allison.

Describing Seledkov as a humble woman, Leslie said she is also a bridge builder. “She creates connections between people.”

Seledkov is a founding member of Russian Old Believers Enhancement Services or ROBES, and an advocate for Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service.

Breaking new ground

Swallowing her pride isn’t the only thing Seledkov has done for her children’s benefit.

In many ways, she said, she is breaking with Russian Old Believer traditions and culture by accepting assistance from Habitat for Humanity.

It’s not the first time she has stepped outside the lines of tradition and culture.

A private woman, Seledkov said divorce is not accepted in her community.

Only saying her ex-husband is incarcerated, Seledkov found it necessary to divorce. She said it would have been easier and she would have been more accepted if she had chosen to stay married. “I’m at a point a lot of women have been,” she said. “They don’t know if they want to step out of their faith and community because of the difficulties it can cause.”

Calling her children her inspiration, she knows sometimes she has to make difficult decisions for their benefit.

“I could have been more isolated from the outside community and more accepted and I know that would have been easier,” she said. “But my children wouldn’t flourish.

“I will do whatever it takes to make a difference in their world. I want them to be independent and to believe in who they are. I want them to have a passion for something and to give back.”

And on the days when she’s feeling the weight of the world, she turns to her faith. She also believes each struggle will make her stronger. On the wall in her office, there are the words by Richard L. Evans that read, “Every true strength is gained through struggle. There is no exception anywhere.”

She said she believes if you have a passion for something and you are working to achieve it, it is OK to be different.

“I have a passion for making the world a better place,” she said. “This is all part of having a passion for life. If you have a passion for something, it will inspire others.”

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