Bridget Baynes spent the majority of her life in Lagos, Nigeria, studying there until obtaining a BA in Computer Science. Following her graduation from college, Bridget left her entire family and many friends behind, bravely moving to the United States completely alone. She describes this experience as a “fresh start,” since she knew no one and had to adapt to a new and very different culture.
Soon after arriving in Washington, DC in 2003, Bridget began working day and night to support herself. She worked both at McDonald’s and at an after-school program, where she aided children in need with their homework. These two positions kept her quite busy, as she struggled to understand American culture and pay for her small rented apartment. Bridget had come to the States with a plan to go back to school, but with two low-paying jobs and many expenses, she found it difficult to afford.
After a few years of working two jobs, Bridget researched careers and decided to go to nursing school. She made it affordable by taking one class per semester for some time, in order to keep both jobs. It was challenging and she quickly decided to make a change, landing a job at a law firm with higher pay and better hours.
“It took forever!” she asserts, exasperatedly, but it allowed her to finish nursing school, and eventually obtain a nursing position at MedStar Washington Center. “Some days are crazy,” she explains. “I bring my lunch to work and bring it home afterward, having had no time to eat it.”
In 2012, Bridget joined the Navy after learning about the benefits from a close friend. She said the training was amazing, and it is a supportive, dependable community to be a part of. She is now a certified Navy Nurse at the same MedStar hospital, and she hopes to be a part of the Navy and serve her country for as long as possible.
By 2013, Bridget had been living in DC for ten years. She had gotten married, legally separated, and had a son, now five years old and autistic. He couldn’t communicate well and even needed help to eat. Her husband, with whom she remained on good terms, had a stroke and required a serious amount of rehabilitation in a stable environment. Bridget took him in. She still lived in the same small one-bedroom apartment with an autistic son, injured husband, and family and friends from Nigeria that came to help out. Between 2003 and 2013, her rent continued to rise, and with all of the people living with her, she realized that she couldn’t stay in that apartment any longer. She needed a house.
She contracted an agent and began looking at homes, usually doing a drive-by of the neighborhood before being shown the home. On one of those drives, fate intervened. Bridget found herself in Deanwood, driving by the DC Habitat homes being constructed at Clay Place. She saw the signs and immediately decided to call the number listed. Around 7:00 that evening, she made a call to the DC Habitat office, expecting to leave a message and hoping for a return call. To her surprise, Orlando Velez, our Housing Services Director, picked up the phone.
“From there,” she says, “miracles began.”
Orlando told her all about the program and requirements, and he provided her with further information by email. She stopped searching for any other homes; she had found the one. Within no time, she was at our office with completed paperwork, ready to go. “Everybody is so helpful,” she said. “I always received instant email replies, phone calls… the process was so smooth.”
Having now lived in her new home for a couple of months, Bridget is beyond grateful. She has no complaints, and she is thankful that Habitat helped her to achieve her dreams. Her son has his own room, and she loves all the space and privacy she can now enjoy. Bridget admits that owning a home is a ton of responsibility.
“When something breaks, I have to fix it myself,” she said. ”I had to shovel my own driveway in the snow. You pay attention to all the small things in your own home, such as lights and water use. I don’t want anyone to touch the beautiful walls, or scuff the floor!” Bridget worked for years on her finances, and she believes she was prepared for homeownership. She can comfortably afford the mortgage, and she feels free and exhilarated to know she is secure.
Now, Bridget wants to give back. She hopes to help inspire other men and women in the service — as well as military veterans — to get involved with Habitat for Humanity. “Habitat has done so many great things for me, Bridget says. ” Habitat is my family now, not strangers.”