While being abused sexually and physically during my forced marriage almost every day, that man would call me names like homeless, poor, ugly, and good for nothing. As a young girl who had no hope in life or the future, I accepted all the descriptors as who I was, from him and his other wives who also added to the verbal abuse. I felt helpless after the first night he locked me in a closet and abused me and I could not defend myself against the violence. I began to accept the profile they described me to be true because I had no one to help me and slowly felt I must be all of those things. I became an asset to him and I did whatever he told me to do. I worked like a slave for him and he believed I could never do anything by myself. The first time I tried to run to the city ended up unsuccessful because I had no place to run to, no one to help me, no job to sustain me to survive, therefore, I had no other options than to return to him and my son. I returned because of my son and I continued my “normal duties” at the village.
I had dreamed about running from this life during all the pain, however, I didn’t have any plans of where to go or how to seek help. But one day my Auntie helped me because she knew I had to leave. The day I escaped, I escaped so far away to make sure I was free. All the way to Ecuador I flew on a plane and I felt like I was released from prison. Prison was the slavery I was sold into because of my father’s debt. I was finally free! My plan was to settle in Ecuador until I could bring my son there with me. I had no intention of coming to the US and didn’t even know the distance with Ecuador. I had no idea about the miles that I had to travel by buses and foot. But I don’t speak Spanish and with no one I knew when I arrived in the country a kind woman who owned an African restaurant listened to my story and told me I needed to head to the United States.
Traveling with different people from different countries gave me some incredible life lessons. I learned that we were all fighting for one purpose; “to survive the day”. In fact, I wasn’t really surprised when I got to the US and I saw that most immigrants were working so hard for low paying jobs. We’re here to do whatever we can because our other options are not life sustaining.
I arrived in Columbia and stayed in a small kiosk with other group of people. We travelled to Panama through the rainforest and over the sea. It took us several days to walk through forest. Walking up mountains, through bushes, and crawling at times on the ground took so much energy, all so we could just survive. Some people died, others fell into pits and some couldn’t keep up because of starvation our bodies were feeling. I eventually got to Panama but I was sick. I was lucky to be quickly rushed to hospital.
I had to stay strong after Panama denied me asylum but I decided to stay in Panama because I had no one to support me to travel to America. During this time, the whole time, I only had two people in mind when I questioned why I needed to stay alive. Myself, and my son. Me because I needed to be able to live to see him again. I was forced at one point to leave Panama and went to Costa Rica. I tried to seek an asylum there too but I was denied again. All this while, I had no place to stay so I was sleeping on the street in every country, no food to eat so I had to go into traffic and beg for money every day. A group of us walked from Costa Rica through Nicaragua to Honduras on foot. When I arrived in Honduras, I slept outside immigration office until I was provided with a document to leave the country. I took a bus to get to Guatemala and then from there I arrived in México.
It took me almost four months before I reached Texas. Each moment of each day made me stronger as I look back. But at the time it was just me moving forward to find a safe place. Sometimes, I believe that you just have to prove to yourself and those around you that, Yes, you can do it! I never thought I could break that chain of slavering and abuse from his hand but yes, I DID IT. I struggled but I succeeded. Even though I had thousands of reasons for giving up my fight, I didn’t.
Today, I am being surrounded by hundreds of mentors who are willing to help me to discover my full potential. I am grateful to have all this option of people around me who are ready to help me and support me with whatever I want to do or achieve. I can’t thrive in life without all of their help, support, and the wonderful words of encouragement. Having people like Christina, Pragati and Chris, among others at MENTEE means a lot to me.
Believe me. Yes, you CAN!
MENTEE is a virtual and global mentoring program for those marginalized by their own communities living around the world. Find out more about our mission and how to get involved at www.menteeglobal.org!