Ogden’s Kambere Family Surprised with Makeover Dream Home

Ogden, Utah. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Ogden, Utah. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Hannah Keating, Arts Writer

 

There’s a reason that “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is airing its 10th season on a new network after its cancellation. You can’t help but fall in love with the stories it shines a light on, often following a deserving family and a community banding together to give them incredibly special gifts. Many will even recognize it from the iconic tagline “Move that bus.” The show has gone across the nation and met families in their time of greatest need and with a turnaround of less than a week, surprises them with their new brand new home. Recently, Odgen, Utah was the center of a new episode. Host Jesse Tyler Ferguson of TV and Broadway fame and popular designers, Breegan Jane, Carrie Locklyn and Darren Keef give the Kambere family the home they’ve dreamed of.

 

The Kamberes

Ashraf Kambere and his family emigrated to Ogden after fleeing their home in the Congo. He is the oldest of four and became the sole guardian of his siblings at 12 years old when, during the brutality of wartime, they were captured by rebels and their parents were killed. The siblings fled, lasting for months by foraging food and moving to escape the violence. They made their way to a refugee camp, where the family was reunited with their aunt, Anifah Barobi, and her daughter. After months of living in the camp, where the children could attend school and rebuild their lives, the extended Kambere family was offered the opportunity to be resettled in the United States. Months of waiting and extensive individual interviews ended with an approval for the six of them to be resettled in Ogden, Utah.

This makeover episode is not the first time the Kambere family has been in the spotlight however. Ashraf’s daily commute to school became the subject of a recent Deseret News article. They followed him on his quest to graduate, which meant five hours in transit daily to get from his family’s basement apartment in Ogden to the Utah International Charter School and back. Kambere now has his diploma at 20 years old and works to support his family.

The episode starts with an inside look in the family’s lives — how they felt about moving to Utah, how they get ready in the morning in their cramped space, how they try to share meals together, how much they have sacrificed for each other. Immediately, you fall in love with the family and their love for each other. After surviving so much and continuing to daily provide for one another, they are the perfect candidates for a makeover.

 

Tradition, Family and Home

Something I appreciated was that the creative team recognized how different Ogden is from their previous home in the Congo and strived to include elements of home in their design — bright colors, tropical prints, beachy textures, even a series of traditional masks on one wall, nine to include the existing family and the members they lost to violence back home. Every design choice and tiny detail was incredibly personal — they had connected with every single member of the family and provided them with their dream.

Beyond just the outside team, the support from the community at large was incredible. Ogden citizens gathered in masses to volunteer, support and gather around the family. Often, makeover shows like this are building on the same land and have to demolish the standing house. However, the city of Ogden donated a new plot of land for the Kambere family, allowing the construction team to build a new house on bare concrete and customize specifically.

This was one of the most emotional episodes of television I’ve watched in a while. I couldn’t help but engage in the suspense as the family waited for the reveal. As the sea of hard hats and smiles behind them shouted the famous dialogue, the suspense was unreal. Watching the Kamberes react to their new house — falling to the ground in tears, shouting their gratitude, praising God, embracing members of their community beside them in support — you understand just how grateful they were, how vulnerable they had been and how this house was literally a dream come true.

As the Kamberes toured their new home, my heart broke for the aunt Anifah. Her joy was infectious. She exploded when she saw her room, and she cried walking through the kitchen and dining area. The time the team spent with the family — caring about what could fill their lives the most, sharing dinners together at a table big enough for the six of them, building a balcony to overlook their mountainous new home, even providing the teenage with enough sinks that they wouldn’t have to fight or share — was amazing.

I don’t usually watch reality shows like this because often they feel lavish or wasteful, but I would argue that every penny spent on the new Kambere family home was completely worth the joyous and celebratory reactions of a family wandering for so long, finally established in a community that supported them.

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@iamjustkeating