Like many other families in modern world, Zeniab was forced to leave her hometown to escape civil war and deal with the uncertainly people face when their country is turned upside down, with the real likelihood and fear of being killed on a daily basis. Zeniab’s journey from South Sudan to Australia and eventually the United Housing Co-operative (UHC) took over 20 years! To spend all those years away from her true homeland  with the disruption and insecurity of having no real home was very
distressing.

To this day she still does not know the whereabouts of her sister who has left behind 7 children and other family members are also missing. Zeniab is a mother, grandmother and carer raising 8 children ranging in ages from 1 – 20, including a child with special needs and severe health issues.

Prior to joining UHC, Zeniab lived in refugee camps and then re-located to Australia when it was safe to do so and lived in transitional housing in Melbourne. In September 2017, Zeniab’s wish for a place to call home came true and she was selected and offered a large 4 bedroom property in the outer west with UHC. According to Zeniab long term affordable housing has finally given her “control over her life”. Since that time Zeniab’s children, grandchildren, nephew and nieces have been able to re-establish their lives and have settled into school, a special school and university, greatly assisted by the fact they have a safe,
secure and affordable home.

Zeniab has not had previous experience of being part of a co-operative and found it a bit strange at first but has found the informal support and friendship a bonus and has done her best to participate in UHC meetings and alternative participation activities.

As a further bonus Zeniab’s home was included in UHC Solar Program and now boasts a 5.4kw solar PV system which has provided a huge benefit to her large household.

Her electricity bills were previously $400 to $700 per quarter but have now reduced to $200 or less.

As part of her alternative participation requirements Zeniab participated in a solar research project conducted by Swinburne
University and through this she contributed knowledge to other UHC members and also was able to learn how to change energy
usage habits which helped in maximising her savings.

“I wash clothes, cook and clean in daylight hours when the sun is shining which means all this electricity is free, I am very happy”

She is also incredibly proud of her eldest daughter who is now studying a Medical science degree in Geelong which she said
would not have been possible without UHC.

One other good news story is that Zeniab’s surrounding neighbours have embraced her family and have provided support. They have very positive and open communication with her whenever there are any problems which enables a quick resolution. And to be sure a household that size cannot always be quiet and peaceful.