Makala/Mbembi family, 2021

Fidele Makala and Astride Mbembi's Story

Fidele and Astride and their three children remember the exact date they arrived in Bloomington-Normal: October 5, 2013 after a very long journey from Congo. It was Fidele’s cousin who encouraged his family to join her in our community.

Fidele and Astride found local jobs and rental housing and began building their lives here. Fidele works for American Precision and Astride is with Cintas. They both love their jobs and the people they work with. They also give high marks to our community.

Fidele shares with a smile, “It’s a wonderful town. We love it! We love it because the town is very quiet and safe. We love the people. We spend time with others in the community. We love them and they love us.”

Astride adds, “I love Bloomington-Normal for my kids. The schools, the education is very good, and we also have universities. Everything is very good.” 

Astride and Fidele appreciate the many opportunities available to their children in the U.S. and they’re all taking advantage of them. The eldest daughter is a freshman at Heartland Community College, the younger daughter is a senior at Normal Community High School. Their son (in the middle) graduated from Normal Community and now works out of town for Amazon. He comes back to Bloomington on weekends, so the family remains close.

Fidele talked about some of the contrasts between living in the U.S. and Congo. “Everywhere we go here people are smiling. People are very polite and are ready to help other people in need. There is lots of love in this country. People in Congo are very polite too, but are focusing on survival, like food. There is enough food in my country, but the problem is there are no highways, and many problems with roads, so transporting the food to people that need it is difficult.” He adds, “In my country we had a home, but the condition was not the same. In Congo we can go 2-3 days without electricity. Sometimes we also had problems with water.”

Living in an apartment that is too small for their family which has many issues with plumbing and non-working appliances, Fidele and Astride dreamed of working toward owning a home. “It’s a family legacy to pass on to our children,” Fidele said. “Also a place to gather for fellowship, share and teach the word of God. All this makes a house a home.”

Friends in their fellowship community suggested they apply to Habitat McLean County. They did and their Habitat journey began. Although the application process takes time and has many steps, they felt the Habitat McLean County staff was supportive and easy to work with.

“The staff is very, very, very enjoyable for us,” said Fidele. “We could contact Holly (family services manager) anytime. She could provide information about anything we did not understand. There is a lot of information needed for the application process, but we knew we could always contact Holly. She was always responsive and encouraging and walked us through the application through completion.”

When the email arrived telling them they had been selected as a Habitat partner family, Fidele said with a big smile, “We were very, very happy! That day we thanked God for that. Then our friends joined us to celebrate with pizza together.”

Fidele and Astride deeply appreciate that home ownership is attainable with Habitat McLean County. They eagerly anticipate breaking ground on their new house and are excited to meet and work side by side with other partner families and volunteers. They also look forward to inviting friends to share in the building of their new house, as well as sharing fellowship within when the house becomes their home. As Fidele noted when referring to the Bible, “With food, clothing, and shelter, we are rich.”