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This Utah family got a new home thanks to HGTV. We went inside and saw it

Ashraf Kambere watches the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about his family during a viewing party at the Browning Center in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Ashraf Kambere watches the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about his family during a viewing party at the Weber State University Browning Center in Ogden, Utah, on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

OGDEN — When the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” crew showed up at Ashraf Kambere’s duplex last summer and told him his family would soon be living in a brand-new home, the stunned 20-year-old laid on the ground, face down and began sobbing.

Kambere, 21, got to relive that emotional day Sunday night. His family’s harrowing journey from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo to Ogden, Utah, unfolded in the second episode of HGTV’s renewed “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

In that episode, Kambere saw all of the love and care that went into building and designing his family’s home. And he watched his own emotional reaction to seeing that home for the first time.

“It feels like it’s happening again,” Kambere told the Deseret News after watching the episode. “It brought back the emotion. … I was crying inside.”

Anifah Barobi watches the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about her family during a viewing party at the Browning Center in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Her daughter Zulufa Kabuo, center, and niece Habiba Kaviira are next to her.
Anifah Barobi watches the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about her family during a viewing party at the Browning Center on the Weber State University campus in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Her daughter, Zulufa Kabuo, center, and niece Habiba Kaviira are next to her.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Many volunteers who helped build the six-bedroom, two-bath home for Kambere’s family came to Weber State University to watch the episode and celebrate the family that has been through so much.

“This is so overwhelming,” Kambere’s younger sister, Azida Kahindo, told the audience. “I really love the house. It’s so beautiful and it’s going to stay beautiful forever.”

From the Congo to Utah

Kambere’s early childhood in the Congo was happy. He especially enjoyed gardening and farming with his father. But that life disintegrated in 2011, when war broke out between rebels and the government.

“When I was 12 years old, right in front of me and my siblings, they killed my dad, my mom and my youngest sister. We had to run for our lives. And we had to hide for two months. … We had nothing,” Kambere said with emotion during the episode. “The only thing I had was just to save my siblings.”

“My brother Ashraf means a lot to me,” Kahindo added. “He is the reason why we are still alive.”

Kambere and his three younger siblings eventually arrived at the large Kyaka refugee camp in Uganda where, miraculously, they were reunited with their aunt, Anifah Barobi, and her daughter. In 2015, the family of six resettled to Ogden.

But they never imagined living in a house like the one they’ve called home since Aug. 17, 2019 — a new home that keeps alive the traditions from the world they left behind.

Inside the new home

“Move that bus!”

Once the “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” bus rolled away to reveal the 2,900-square-foot house, Kambere and his family erupted into cheers and tears.

His aunt fell to her knees with such emotion that the show’s host, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”), and others had to help her off the ground.

“If I’m dreaming, hopefully I never wake up,” said Kambere’s sister Habiba Kaviira. “I couldn’t believe it. It was our home.”

Anifah Barobi walks through the kitchen of her home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Barobi and her family were recipients of an HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” home. “I feel like the Queen of Utah,” she said.
Anifah Barobi walks through the kitchen of her home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Barobi and her family were recipients of an HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” home. “I feel like the queen of Utah,” she said.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Five days. That’s all it took to build the two-story house that has brought so much joy to Kambere’s family.

On the first floor, there’s a large Africa-inspired dining room — one of Kambere’s favorite spots in the house. There’s a roomy, restaurant-style kitchen with bold black-and-white tile and a spacious living room.

“I feel like the queen of Utah,” Barobi told Deseret News photographer Kristin Murphy as she walked through the home early Sunday evening.

On one wall in the living room rests nine Congolese masks — each one representing a member of the family, including the deceased.

“Seeing the masks on the wall makes me feel like all of the family members are together,” Kambere said during the episode. “They are living with us.”

Ashraf Kambere walks through his new HGTV “Extreme Makeover” home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Ashraf Kambere walks through his new HGTV “Extreme Makeover” home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Each member of the family has his or her own bedroom. All six rooms are upstairs, so the close-knit family members aren’t that far apart. And the single picture the family has of its home in Africa is framed and on display in the hallway — along with new portraits of the family’s life in Utah.

And the backyard allows Kambere to keep up his gardening hobby — a skill he learned from his father.

“It was not a simple journey, but now, my family is safe. We have a bright future,” Kambere said in the episode. “My tomorrow will be greater than yesterday.”

A community effort

This new chapter for Kambere’s family was a true community effort. The house wouldn’t have been built without Ogden general contractor Wadman Corporation — which hosted the watch party — and the hundreds of volunteers in the Ogden community.

Azida Kahindo walks through the dining room of her new home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. She and her family were recipients of an HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” home.
Azida Kahindo walks through the dining room of her new home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. She and her family were recipients of an HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” home.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

While watching the episode, people cried at the family’s hardships and cheered as the family walked through the home for the first time. They got especially loud near the end of the episode, when Weber State University president Brad Mortensen offered Kambere and his siblings four-year scholarships to the school.

“It recharged my soul and my heart,” said Lisa Nielson, an employee for Staker Parson Companies, which provided the concrete for the house. “There’s not an inch of that house that’s not jam-packed with love.”

Nielson was one of the many volunteers who helped work on the house. Sometimes she stayed as late as 2 a.m., making sure it would be ready in time. And as she would sweep the concrete, images of the family living in the home flooded her mind.

Lisa Nielson hugs Anifah Barobi after a viewing party for the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about Barobi’s family at the Browning Center in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Nielson volunteered to help decorate the home and introduced herself to Barobi at the party.
Lisa Nielson hugs Anifah Barobi after a viewing party for the HGTV “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” episode about Barobi’s family at Weber State University’s Browning Center in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Nielson volunteered to help decorate the home and introduced herself to Barobi at the party.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

After the watch party, Nielson met and hugged the family. She proudly scrolled through the camera roll on her phone, revealing the many videos and images she had taken to document her experience each day.

“When I was in that home I just would think about all of the beautiful memories that this family is going to experience,” she told the Deseret News. “I was so touched. I didn’t want to lose that. I didn’t want to forget how I felt.”

Kambere and his family were the last ones to leave the watch party. They stayed behind to continue celebrating, taking selfies and family pictures. But eventually it was time to go — Kambere had to get ready for his night shift at Fresenius Medical Care.

Ashraf Kambere jumps onto his bed in his new HGTV “Extreme Makeover” home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Ashraf Kambere jumps onto his bed in his new HGTV “Extreme Makeover” home in Ogden on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

But even with a long night ahead of him, he was still all smiles.

“I want to thank the Ogden city and the community, who supported my family and changed my life,” he said. “My life has been changed in a positive way.”