COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In honor of World Habitat Day Monday, Habitat for Humanity celebrated the beginning of a rebuild that will reshape one Columbia woman's life.
More than 30 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared the first Monday in October would be World Habitat Day, promoting the idea that everyone deserves a decent place to live.
Liz Cooper has been battling brain tumors since her 20's, causing epilepsy and other medical issues. Owning her own home always seemed out of reach.
She's a Columbia College graduate who had dreams of serving in the Peace Corps, promoting clean drinking water and HIV/AIDS prevention in Kenya. She was gearing up to leave when she had her first seizure.
"My whole reality changed," Cooper said. "And it was a nightmare."
It's taken years of financial counseling and time to pay down her medical expenses as she worked through Central South Carolina's Habitat for Humanity Program.
But, Monday, the demolition of her new home began. Emily Fernald, the homeowner services director for Central SC Habitat for Humanity, was there to see it begin.
"She believes you have to work hard for what you get," Fernald said. "And she's willing to do that work."
One of the common misconceptions about Habitat homes is "they're free." That couldn't be further from the truth, according to Fernald. Homeowners must be willing and able to pay an affordable mortgage, and they have to put in what's called "sweat equity," or a contribution during the build alongside the volunteers.
"I just don't quit," Cooper said. "It's not in my integrity."
Cooper said if she can persist and do this, anyone can. And she wants to encourage others to apply if they need help.
"It makes my heart so warm," she said. "And not only by having my own safe place... it gives me an environment where I can possibly heal."