I never expected the community to have that kind of love for us. HGTV’s Extreme Makeover gives Utah family new home after escaping war in Congo

Written by: Meagan Lynn February 26th 2020, 3:55pm pst

“I’m going to give this advice to my brothers and sisters who are out there going through the same situation that I was going through: their tomorrow will be bigger than yesterday.”

-Ashraf Kambare

Barobi family seeing new house for the first time
credit: HGTV

While the residents of Ogden, Utah woke up safely tucked in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, Ashraf Kambare was running for his life. Thousands of miles from the United States, he and his siblings had just escaped captivity in the Democratic Republic of Congo after witnessing the murder of both his parents and youngest sister. At twelve years old, he was now in charge.

“We had to hide for two months. We had no food, we had no clothing. We had nothing,” Kambare explained on the show. “I had no choice; the only thing I had was just to save my siblings.”

Kambare and his sisters, Azida and Habiba, walked hundreds of miles to seek safety in Uganda. It was there at a refugee camp where they happened to find their aunt, Anifah Barobi, and cousin Zulufa.

“We became a family again,” he said.

Three years later, after surviving the devastating loss of two parents and a sister, the Barobi family were accepted into the United States as refugees. They uprooted their life to Ogden, Utah, taking with them only the clothes on their back and one single photo of home.

The old house the Barobi family lived in.
credit: HGTV

“One thing I found in America…everything comes easier,” Kambare said.

But the life the Barobis found in Ogden didn’t come without challenges. A family of five, they moved into a three-bedroom, one-bathroom basement apartment. Their kitchen alone was so cramped that they had to crawl under the dining room table to get around it. When Kambare wasn’t commuting nearly five hours a day to attend Utah International Charter School, where he graduated in 2018 with a 3.5 GPA, he was working as the primary breadwinner to support his family.

“I was working the graveyard shift from 5:30 to 5:30 in the morning,” Kambare said in an exclusive interview with AfterBuzz TV. “I have to take care of the family, I have to pay all the bills, I have to pay the rent, and how am I going to start saving for my school fees, like for tuition?”

credit: HGTV

Kambare got that answer when HGTV called. It was his high school principal who first got the call in April 2019, and when she told Kambare that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition wanted to build his family a new house, he couldn’t believe it.

“I thought it was a scam,” he told AfterBuzz.

The Barobi family realized their new home was going to be a reality when they were awoken by host Jesse Tyler Ferguson and a crew of 500 workers outside their house that August.

credit: HGTV

“Oh my God, I passed out. Because I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he said. “The moment they came to my home and surprised me with a knock on my door that I’ve been selected to get a house, that’s one I will never get out of my mind. I will never forget it.”

The new house.   (credit: HGTV)

Just five days later, the Barobi family’s lives were changed forever with the gift of a home bigger and more beautiful than they ever could have imagined.

Overcome with joy and gratitude, Kambare and his aunt both fell to their knees in tears when they first laid eyes on the 2,900 square-foot home. He had never even lived in a house with electricity before moving to Utah, and now, for the first time, each family member has their own bedroom, and Kambare says he can finally relax.

credit: HGTV

“Sometimes you feel stressed, you feel worried about something, and you can go to your room and you just close the door and then take a deep breath,” he said. “I never had my own bedroom…but now, that’s all changed. They changed our life completely.”

credit: HGTV

Even more special than his own room, Kambare says, are the pieces that reminded him of home. He has his own garden in the backyard, reminiscent of the days he spent farming crops with his dad in Africa. A wall of handmade African masks is displayed in the living room, representing each member of their family, including their parents and youngest sister.

“We thought they were going to build us a house like in American culture. But when we saw the house, it was African culture,” Kambare explained. “It reminded me that even though I moved somewhere else, I’m still home.”

credit: HGTV

When Ferguson first asked him what he wanted out of a new home, Kambare answered simply, “safety.” Now that he has a safe place to come home to and be with his family, he can hardly believe it.

“I spent three months still thinking about rent. The months would end and I was like, I don’t have money to pay rent. And then my aunt, she would be like, ‘Ashraf, we don’t have to pay rent anymore. This is our house,’” he recalled. “Whenever I drive by it, when I look at it, God, I can’t imagine this is really my house.”

credit: HGTV

Extreme Makeover didn’t just give Kambare the security of a house, but of a future. He and all of his family were surprised with college scholarships to Utah’s Weber State University. Kambare plans to begin classes there in the fall, where he will study electrical engineering. His siblings plan to follow suit.

Though the scholarships were a huge surprise and relief, Kambare says good things have continuously been unfolding for him and his family since the day they came to the United States, and is thankful for the community he’s found.

credit: HGTV

“The surprises for my family started the moment I moved to Ogden,” he said. “When they brought us to Ogden we found over a hundred people waiting for us. They started helping my family if I needed help with something. It continued until the day I was surprised that they were going to build us a house. They all came to volunteer. They helped change my life.”

Seeing all of those community members who first welcomed the Barobis to Ogden years ago show up to build him a new home is a memory that will always be cemented in Kambare’s mind.

credit: HGTV

“I saw everyone and I was like, Oh my God, the community loves us,” he said. “I never expected the community to have that kind of love for us.”

After saving his sisters’ lives and seeking refuge thousands of miles from home, Kambare has hope for the future; a hope he wants to share with others.

“I’m going to give this advice to my brothers and sisters who are out there going through the same situation that I was going through: their tomorrow will be bigger than yesterday,” he said.

“Stick with your families and love everyone. Love the community. Respect everyone, because if you do respect everyone you get more, because everyone wishes good for you.”

credit: HGTV

The Barobi family is just one of ten whose lives will be transformed with a new home this season. To hear more of their stories, you can tune into Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on HGTV Sundays at 9 p.m. ET, and follow AfterBuzz TV for interviews with the families every week.

About The Author:

Meagan Lynn is a host at AfterBuzz TV and Elon University graduate with a degree in journalism. She loves singing, listening to inspirational podcasts and watching reality TV.

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