Amir Amda scurried to his bedroom, dumped the contents of a goody bag on his mattress, grabbed the crayons and a coloring book, and began to draw.
When Brenda Warner asked if he wanted to jump on the bed, he quickly shunned the temptation and continued to color as if he had been in the home forever.
Amir, 6, had a look of uncertainty as he took long, slow strides toward this new house moments earlier. But now that uncertainty had become excitement upon receiving the best holiday gift of his young life.
The First Things First Foundation, founded by former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, created these reactions with their Homes for the Holidays project to help place low-income, single-parent families into new homes.
U-Haul has partnered with First Things First for the majority of the past 10 years as a corporate sponsor welcoming these families into their new homes. U-Haul Team Members were present at the Nov. 21 unveiling of the Amda home on W. Grove Street in Phoenix.
As Amir and sister Semira, 8, cut the red ribbon stretching across the porch of their new home, the youngsters couldn’t wait for their mother to open the door. Amir darted straight for the new computer, sat down and pounded the keyboard while swinging his feet.
Nefissa Amda, gripping her keys and shaking her head, struggled to verbalize her feelings. Her oldest children, Abdurazak and Rahema, walked through the home with admiring eyes, trying to touch as little as possible.
Nefissa lost her husband and sister shortly after moving to the United States from Ethiopia and eventually settled in Arizona in 2000.
“We’ve always been struggling and she’s been a single mom, so I learned a lot of hard work from her,” said Abdurazak, an Arizona State graduate who has applied to medical school. “She works as hard as she can to give us the life she envisions she would want for her children. That instills hard work in us to make her proud.”
The single-story, adobe-style home features a large living room and dining table big enough to accommodate the family and guests. A sliding glass door opens to their spacious back yard.
The hallway links four bedrooms, including a bunk room for Rahema and Semira. The master bedroom offered a relaxing getaway at the back of the house for Nefissa.
“It gives us a place to be happy and a place to settle and feel warm,” Abdurazak said. “Being able to have (our own) rooms, being able to spend time with our family and being able to enjoy the holidays (is meaningful) as well.”
Amir and Semira found more surprises outside. With tags still on their helmets, they mounted their new bicycles and took off. Nefissa came out to relish in her children’s excitement. Under her breath she continued to mutter, “Wow!”
“We love what this program represents…it gives us perspective,” Kurt Warner said.
“It’s hard to do anything by yourself, whether you’re playing football, whether you’re living life, we always need help to come alongside of us and give us opportunities. That’s what this program represents.”
As spectators left the family, Nefissa whispered her farewells: “It’s so exciting. I can’t believe this. Thank you.”