Day 5 – Rana (Part I)

In the summer of 2007 I fell in love. I was 26. My name is Rana.

 

I had just finished college and found my first job. As I think back on it now, it is hard to imagine how happy and content I once was.

 

I fell in love with a kind and gentle man from Denmark called Einar. He had had come to Syria to work on a government-funded infrastructure project. He was generous and funny and we had a son together in 2008. His name is Jarl. But 6 months after he was born I started to get sick. I was in hospital for 2 months. Einar decided that it would be a good idea if I were to leave the city and move back my hometown in the country where my family could take better care of me and the baby.

 

When I arrived in the local hospital my family visited me every day. They took Jarl and cared for him, because I could not. My baby spent the first few weeks being adored by his relatives. But after 3 weeks, the doctors in the hospital without my permission told my family that I was HIV positive.

 

Everything changed dramatically. Suddenly the visits stopped. They no longer sent me food or checked if I was being cared for properly – and my son had been discarded at the hospital entrance with the admitting nurse. My family didn’t even want to enter my room. They feared Jarl too, even though he is HIV negative. Unfortunately it is still a widely held belief, especially in the more rural areas, that HIV is highly infectious and will kill anyone who comes into contact with a HIV positive person. They also think that anyone with HIV must have been a drug addict or a sex worker. I believe this is what my family thought when they told me I must never contact them again.

 

My health eventually improved thanks to Einar paying for my medication and hospital care. I moved back to the city. But it was clear that our relationship had deteriorated in my absence and kind as Einar was at first, he could not see past my HIV. He left the country at the end of 2009. I never heard from him again and I do not know how I to find him. I had also lost my job. I had to turn to sex work to support myself and my baby.

 

Then in 2012 I met an Australian who fell in love with me and promised to take care of Jarl and me. I thought I would be happy…

 

Read Part II of Rana’s story tomorrow, Day 6

[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]

’45 Days, 45 Lives’ Campaign

 

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Day 4 – Jeremy & Maureen

HALC assisted Jeremy and Maureen with their temporary, and later their permanent skilled sponsored visas. Maureen is a nurse and Jeremy works in insurance. The couple and their young children are from Zimbabwe. Their migration matter was complicated by Jeremy’s HIV diagnosis, however through perseverance eight years after the family arrived in Australia they were granted permanent residency. They continue to make significant contributions in areas of skill shortage in Australia.

Maureen and Jeremy write:

“We would like to sincerely thank everyone who was involved in making our immigration issue a success. Our Permanent resident visa was granted through the hard work, dedication, perseverance, patience and tireless efforts from the staff at HALC. We felt welcome and became part of the HALC family. Without your help, we cannot imagine where we could be today. Words alone cannot thank you enough. Keep up doing the great job you have done for us. May god richly bless all of you. Thank you very much. Greatly appreciated, now and forever.”

[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]

’45 Days, 45 Lives’ Campaign

 

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Day 3 – Esmerelda

I love food. Food has been my life ever since I was old enough to spell my name in noodles. I am a chef. Or I was a chef. I moved to Australia to practice my Cuban cuisine arts on the innocent tastebuds of Bris-vagans. It was great. It wasn’t my restaurant. I am too young for that. But I loved working in the kitchen. The heat. The fires. The shouting! And of course the sweet scents and the biting aromas! It was long hours and always hard work, but it was at least fundamentally good work.

 

Then in 2013 two events would change my life. First I became pregnant with my little boy. Second I was diagnosed with hepatitis B.

 

The pregnancy exacerbated my symptoms greatly and I needed to take time off work, both for myself and my unborn baby. It was a hard time for me physically and emotionally the amount of time I wanted to take off work raised questions from my boss. So being an honest sort of person I told him why I needed to take so much time off work. At first he seemed okay with my situation, he approved my leave and wished me well. But when I returned to work 2 months later, he said that he did not want me to work in the restaurant anymore. He accused me of endangering the public and creating a risk for the restaurant having someone like me working there and said that I wasn’t allowed to work in the food service industry. I was still sick and heavily pregnant, and my employers just wanted to get rid of me because they deemed me to be a risk.

 

It was HALC that I came too when I could not take the stress of it anymore. They set my employers right, they also made sure that my employers did not withdraw their visa sponsorship. HALC made me feel empowered and helped me expose the truth about my employer. My family and I are now Australian citizens and I have the confidence to return to work when my baby is old enough.

[all names and information that might identify any individual have been changed for confidentiality purposes]

’45 Days, 45 Lives’ Campaign

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