Behind the wall of unemployment, I escape. I have a right to work. I have a Law Degree and a Life Coaching Certificate. How do I begin? How can I work professionally and who will employ me? Even though I see many barriers ahead, I say yes to every training opportunity that is offered to me. I speak up whenever I have the chance. I have completed intercultural dialogue training to become a facilitator in that area. I am also writing again with Fiction at the Friary. There is no barrier there. With speaking and writing, I escape.
Behind the wall of staying idle, I escape. I live a life of routine—breakfast, sleep, lunch, sleep, and dinner, sleep. Being idle with nothing to do or look forward to and waiting for the government to say yes is very hard. To move ahead is very hard. Not being able to fully integrate or belong to a group outside the wall of the hostel is very sad, but I escape.
I joined the Sanctuary Runners and the Park Run. Before I came to Ireland in 2018, I never ran in my life, but I did the Cork City Marathon and I finished it. It was one of my greatest achievements. Running, I now have friends. I am very healthy and positive. With running, I escape.
Behind the wall of the hostel, being in the asylum process, the dreaded brown registered envelope evokes much fear. The fear of uncertainty is very real. I am not sure what the Justice Department will say, or when they will make a decision. In this state, my life and safety and that of my children is one thing that keeps me awake most nights, low some days and full of fear on many others. It can eat your time, mind, health, and everything that gives you strength, but with nature and the people I meet every day, I escape.
The air that I breathe says yes to me. The green grass and trees say yes to me. The genuine people I have met since being here say yes to me. I know for sure this time my brown registered envelope will say yes to me. So, with faith, I escape.
Behind the wall of nothing, I escape. Since coming to Ireland, I know how important it is to seek help and when you get help, to stay committed, not go back. After my mental health intervention here, I have said yes to almost every opportunity that has come my way. That is the beauty of Ireland and life in general. It presents you with opportunity, and if you have nothing, that opportunity is the something that you can have. I have said yes to the Cork City of Sanctuary Movement, yes to facilitating, yes to continuous learning, yes to being a member of Boards working with asylum seekers, and yes to speaking. I will say yes to the many more opportunities that I have. So, behind the wall of nothing, by saying yes, I escape.
This article originally appeared in the March 2022 issue of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Global OB-GYN Newsletter, a publication of MGH Strength and Serenity Global Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence. To read past issues and learn more about this program, click here.
**Feature photo by Olga on Pexels
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Deborah Oniah is a mother of four and a Graduate of Law in her home country, Nigeria. She is a University College Cork Sanctuary Scholar with a Postgraduate Diploma in Trauma Studies. An important voice for the migrant community in Ireland, Deborah is trained in and facilitates intercultural dialogue. She is a member of Sanctuary Runners and Saoirse Ethnic Hands On Deck, a registered social enterprise project run by migrant women living in Direct Provision Centres in Cork. She is now studying Global Youth Work and Development at University of Maynooth, Kildare.