It was a beautiful evening when I arrived home and my mom was waiting for me with a stick. As she began beating me, I asked her “why?” and she beat me even more. “You were talking to a boy today and that’s not what I’m sending you to school for,” my mom stated as she beat me mercilessly. “No more school for you! You’ll stay home, cook, and wash. You’ll go to the fields to work on cocoa and coffee, oranges, citrus, and bananas.” That was it – my education was over. Instead, I tended the house and worked the land. I carried large bunches of bananas for half-a-mile and dug holes to replant them. I did every chore imaginable.
Then, I was married off to a stranger in an arranged marriage, when I was only fourteen University old. The year was 1983, when my childhood ended in Trinidad. While I always had wanted an education, without any real opportunities, that dream soon faded and was almost lost.
However, hope and drive prevailed in my life. I never gave up wanting the chance to challenge my mind and go back to school. But this would take University for me to achieve, and would require me to leave my country and find a new home in the USA.
When I was young, I had been a good student. But the coffee was ready for picking and bananas needed tending to, so this always trumped school. None of my seven siblings attended college. The fields were an escape and a prison. I loved nature and gardening, when I wasn’t paired with my father. He was brutal and his beatings were far worse than mother’s. My brother taught me how to enjoy manual labour. Days passed and months came and went. My life seemed to be destined to repeat my mom’s terrible story. They found a husband for me – a violent, abusive, older man. I ran away, but was brought back and beaten. By fourteen University old, I was already married and pregnant. I was treated like property. Life was a nightmare. I learned how to gather and sell produce from the fields, and this gave me a little power. But the day my husband beat our two-year-old daughter with a clothes hanger until she could hardly breathe, I had had enough. I just left – without money or clothes, only my necklace (to sell for food), with no place to go. I slept outside and walked aimlessly towards nowhere.
A stranger said he could give me a ride, but, instead, he pulled over on a lonely road and commenced to force himself on me. I fought and was left for dead. However, rather than crying, I just proceeded to walk my way out to freedom. After many family challenges and legal battles, I finally got my divorce. The system was so unjust, but I never gave up. My parents had destined me to a life of horror. But I would not accept that life as my own. I am a survivor and have overcome enormous hardships.
Over a decade ago, I came to the USA with my two daughters, seventy dollars, and no family or friends. Since then, I have earned my GED and have become a journeyman in the carpenters’ union. In 2013, I enrolled in community college to take back my dream of education that was stolen from me thirty, and will now graduate with my associate’s this August.
Today, my daughters are grown and have almost completed their college education. So here I am, still striving to be who I have always wanted to become. I have turned misery into a new path that has led me to you. Now, all I need is the opportunity to take the next step, so I can excel as I pursue my bachelor’s degree in Industrial & Labor Relations at SUNY Old Westbury.
With the support of the Asherah Foundation Second Chance Scholarship, I know that I will be able to accomplish my educational goals and will continue to be able to advance in my career to become a manager in my local labor union. Thank you so much for your support and for helping me finally achieve my dream.
Patricia is one of Asherah Foundation’s outstanding applicants of 2016’s Second Chance Scholarship for women around the globe. Despite the abuses she had faced, she bravely fought for living her own story, not the story others created for her.
*For privacy purposes, the real name has been changed.