*Yamu was raped by her stepfather when she was barely a teenager. By 15, she was a mum. Desperate to escape, Yamu put her daughter up for adoption and left for the Middle East, to work as a migrant housemaid.
“You needed no qualifications for this job, and I met those requirements,” she says. “I had dropped out of school, I had no skills, no education and no other opportunities.”
Life as a Migrant Housemaid in the Middle East
At 20, she was working in Lebanon: “I thought nothing could be worse than where I had lived most of my life. But I was wrong. My mistress was an extremely wicked woman and treated me like I was dirt. The son was as mean as his mum, and I worked 19 hours every single day. They did not pay me and hardly gave me any food to eat. However I chose to complete the two-year contract, as my home in Sri Lanka was awful too.”
To her surprise, Yamu was paid in full when her contract ended, and she returned to Sri Lanka with money in her hand. For a vulnerable girl, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing. A young man cheated her: “I was back to being penniless and hopeless again.”
This time she went to Dubai, followed by two years in Kuwait. “I was nothing more than a slave. I left Kuwait feeling I had aged many decades.”
No Happy Ending
At 27, she wanted to settle down, but her dreams of a happy ending soon crumbled. Her husband had another woman, who was working as a migrant housemaid in the Middle East! He had no intention of giving her up.
After their daughter was born, her money ran out. Her husband’s family encouraged her to go overseas again, this time to Jordan.
“When I got back, my daughter was almost three, all the money I sent had been used, and my husband was openly involved with the other woman. His family once again pushed me to go.
“But I felt a need to protect and raise my own daughter. I had the chance to do this right this time. I decided I was done working in the Middle East. I’d been a migrant housemaid for ten years and had nothing to show for it except many bad memories, and a sweet little daughter.”
Hope at Heavena
One day, after a violent row, she walked out. “I decided never to go back. I wasn’t going to let my daughter have a miserable life like me. I saw all the scars my daughter already had, and she was only five.”
Yamu was referred to Heavena, then a residential shelter for homeless, trafficked and abused women. Heavena is an initiative run by Global Care’s partners, Community Concern, and supported by Global Care for many years. Yamu and her daughter stayed there for six months.
“Through physical, mental, emotional and spiritual restoration I had a new image of myself. I learned what true family was like and how I could have a better life. After Heavena, I found a job as a housemaid to a kind Sri Lankan family. We have a small home, and we are making it work.
“If not for Heavena I would have never known that a good life for someone like me was possible.Today I am grateful and hopeful, for I have new dreams for my little girl and me.”