Priya’s story from Safe Haven Halfway Home

Date: January 12, 2022
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“Although I sometimes feel low, I look in the mirror and remind myself not to give up.”

My name is Priya and I am 20 years old. I came to Safe Haven Halfway Home in September 2019 after suffering physical and mental abuse from my relatives.

I was five years old when my mother became pregnant with my little sister. We were all living with my biological father who was an alcoholic at that time.  As my mother went out to work, I did all household chores including cooking and caring for my little sister.  I was just like a mother figure to my little sister. A year after my little sister was born, my father committed suicide by setting himself on fire while my family and I had gone for prayers at Grand-Bassin. I did not understand what death meant at that age but when my mother explained to me that I would no longer see my father, I was shocked and kept on crying.  I got a little brother when I was 13 years old and since then, my aim is to provide a good life with the opportunities I did not get to my siblings.  My mother had a hard time making ends meet. We had to move to my grandparents’ place. I managed to get work as a school van assistant and was happy to see other regions in Mauritius. I also eagerly worked in a hair salon and in a restaurant in the afternoons.

At my grandmother’s, I did tedious household chores daily and she would insult me whenever I would not give her the little money I earned to buy groceries. I realized that my grandmother had a preference for boys who would normally be placed on a pedestal in the household. She did not like me because I was “too dark-skinned”, furthermore we are not biologically related. Since I was overworked and burnt out, I developed back and side pains. After some time, we moved in with my stepfather who was a drug addict. I did not feel safe knowing that me and my sister were alone in the house with him while my mother went out to work.  My dad contributed a negligible amount of money to the household.

Around two years ago following various searches to find a dwelling, my mother, little sister and I came across Safe Haven Halfway Home. When I first came into Safe Haven, I found it difficult to adapt and was very introverted. However, I was given the opportunity to travel to South Africa to attend a conference on child abuse. It was my first time away from home and I was lost during the first four days there, new culture, new language, so many people. I attended a meditation session which proved to be very therapeutic. It was an eye-opening experience which made me realize so many things. I decided firmly that I would no longer be shy. I felt determined to make decisions for myself including, changing my way of dressing and speaking.

I am currently following a hairdressing course and dream of having my own hair salon one day.  I am proud of myself because I have done a bridal photoshoot during my course. Besides hairstyling, I love drawing, singing, applying “Mehendi” (henna) and listening to songs. These hobbies help me feel less stressed and lonely.

Despite my life experiences, I appreciate the fact that I have grown so much over the years. My mother was not very supportive but I have learnt how to handle conflicts. I remain very close to my younger siblings. I believe that it is very important to have faith in oneself, courage and perseverance. Although I sometimes feel low, I look in the mirror and remind myself not to give up.