Her name is Akos and about 10 years ago, she migrated to the United States. Akos was a graduate of Ghana’s premier University and was lucky to be employed by one of the nation’s leading Banks. She was thrilled to have found employment shortly after completing her studies. Unbeknownst to her, that excitement will be short lived. The “angel” who helped her secure that employment was now pressuring her for favors: a favor whose only form of payment had to be in “kind”. Not willing to compromise on her values, she paid the ultimate price of getting fired. Miraculously, there happened to be a shortage of some funds at the bank and she was framed for it. So, what becomes of a young graduate who is desperate for work and has to rejoin the employment seeking race with thousands of others? The answer is “ANYTHING”.
In the case of Akos, this “anything” came in the form of a suggestion to travel abroad for the ever elusive “better life”. During her student years, she had made a few trips to Canada to visit relatives so when her folks abroad heard about her predicament, they promised to help her achieve her dreams as long as she agreed to travel to the US to be with other relatives. With limited options and growing frustrations on her end, Akos hesitantly agreed to adjust her plans and to make the trip to the land flowing with milk and honey, the land others captioned as being close to heaven (lol).
Alas, on July 17th, 2008, she arrived at the Dulles International Airport with 2 suitcases in tow, and the promise of a better life in her heart. 2 family members were there to receive her and she felt much relief. On the 1 hour drive home to Columbia, all she could see was the endless beautiful houses, the magnificent landscape and the promise of the future. This is going to be a fresh start, she surmised. The 1st week in the United States was indeed great. She got her much needed rest, recovered from the jet lag and made calls to a few friends from college who were already living in the US. But by the second week in the US, she was beginning to feel antsy.
None of her relatives who promised to help her settle in the US had taken the time to speak to hear in depth about her future or any work opportunities. Instead, they relied on her to take care of the 3 young children in the house (ages 9 months to 3 years), while they went to work. By the 3rd week, Akos gathered courage and decided to inquire further about their promise to her. The response she received sent her on an emotional tailspin. Her relatives unanimously responded “you are not authorized to work in this country, the best we can do for you is to provide you with a stipend for caring for our 3 children. We think it’s a better option than being unemployed in Ghana”. The reality of the moment struck her like lighting, her jaw dropped and her knees began to shake.
That night after putting the little ones to sleep, Akos went to her child-sized room. All she could say was Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God. From the tone of the conversation, she concluded that her relatives had no plans for her other than to make her their eternal babysitter. What do I do, who shall I turn to, what shall become of me? She knelt down in her room, and with her face buried in both hands, all she could say was:
God, I don’t know what to do I’m so confused and scared I feel hurt, stuck and betrayed Is there a way out of this? Do I stay in the US? Should I return to Ghana? I know you hear those who call to you in faith Help me God Be merciful unto me Grant me your mercy and favor Guide me thru this valley of shadow of death
The prayer did not provide an immediate solution but it gave her the peace of mind to think clearly, and the hope to live each day. So, for the next 7 months, an MBA graduate became a baby sitter, living at the mercy of relatives who were supposed to “help” her. One day, her cell phone rang and on the other end of that call, was a friend she knew many years ago from primary school. He had recently migrated to the US with his family and was told that Akos was in town as well, so he got her number from a mutual friend, and viola, the unexpected phone call. His first question to her was “so, how are you? Akos tried to control her emotions but the weight of her sorrow overcame her strength for composure. Like a river overflowing its’ banks, so did her tears roll uncontrollably.
Are you okay? Henry asked. Just then, Akos could hear the keys turn in the front door. Her aunt was returning home from work so she quickly wiped her tears and regained composure. Henry, I’m sorry I can’t talk now but if you call tomorrow at 3pm, I would be able to talk to you. Thanks for calling but I have to go now.
To be continued.
NB: THIS STORY IS BASED ON A REAL LIFE SITUATION