My Journey to Homeownership & CHT Board Service

CHT Board Dec 2021
CHT Members Picnic – 2023
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Issouf Ouattara is a Champlain Housing Trust Board member and shared equity homeowner who wrote and shared the following remarks at our fundraiser luncheon in November 2023.

Good afternoon, everyone!

My name is Issouf Ouattara, and I am a CHT Board member. I work at UVM as a payroll processor. I have been on the CHT Board of Directors for almost two years. I am originally from Burkina Faso, a French speaking country in West Africa. I relocated to the United Sates in October 2010 without my family through the Diversity Visa Program. Despite my Law Degree (Master of Business Law) and working as Legal Advisor in a regional Bank in West Africa, I had to leave everything behind for the sake of my family.

I want to tell you a little bit about my journey after arriving in the United States.

One of the very first challenges I faced in the U.S. besides the language barrier was finding a place to stay. With the help of the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), a family agreed to let me stay with them until I would be able find a place of my own. For months, I tried without success to find a place to rent mostly because I could not afford it.

In April 2011, I got a temporary job at the University of Vermont (UVM) as a custodian. Three months later, UVM offered me a custodian permanent position. That job meant a lot to me because I knew it would allow me to rent a place on my own even if I had to spend more than 50% of my salary on rent.  I was making less than $12 per hour.

I heard about the great job CHT is doing when it comes to housing through AALV (quality and affordability). I signed up for one of CHT educational sessions and applied to rent an apartment. In November 2011, I moved into a CHT apartment on North Champlain Street in Burlington.

I had to attend English classes to improve my English skill and pursue a college degree. I also needed to save some money to begin my family’s reunification process, and even though I had an apartment from CHT, it was impossible to save what I needed. I found HomeShare which really reduced my housing costs until my family was closer to joining me so I had to look again for a place of my own that I could afford.

When I heard about CHT’s Shared Equity Program that helps people buy a home, I decided to explore the option of buying a condo. I found that option more interesting than renting. I went through the process and bought the condo in which I live with my family today. While I was in the condo buying process, I was also in my family reunification process, a very costly and challenging process. But, against the odds, everything went well. I moved into my condo and two months later, my family arrived. It is right around the corner from here, and the mortgage payments are actually less than what I would have had to pay for rent!

Why did I join the CHT Board of Directors and why am I so thankful for CHT? To this question, I would say:

  • Seeing my son going to school every day and coming back home gives me joy,
  • Being able to focus on my studies and earn a master’s degree,
  • Being able to focus on my work and to move up the rank professionally from a temporary custodian employee to a unit supervisor, then a unit senior supervisor and now payroll processor at UVM,
  • Being able to win Awards (academically and professionally: Diversity initiative award, the Marshall E. Dimock Student Award and today the 2023 President Our Common Ground Award)
  • And keeping the hope the future will be bright in the community that I have adopted and the community that has adopted me…

I can go on and on…

To me, all this has a common denominator: having a place to stay at, a stable and an affordable place to focus and organize… And this thanks to Champlain Housing Trust.

Having a roof over my family’s head contributed a lot, I did what I did but the community contributed- What CHT is and is the impact of CHT is real in part thanks to the donors.

All this was possible because of the stability of having a place to stay we can call our home, which was possible because of CHT.

I see myself as a living testimony of CHT’s greatness. 

So, I join the Board of Director to express my gratitude to CHT and to the Community, it is a way for me to give back.

Thank you to Champlain Housing Trust and,

Thank you to you all!