‘I needed to heal after my divorce and Ireland helped me to heal’

New to the Parish: Fadielah Moses arrived from South Africa in 2013

Fadielah Moses  feels lucky to work for a reputable homecare agency but says many of her friends are exploited by private agencies. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Fadielah Moses feels lucky to work for a reputable homecare agency but says many of her friends are exploited by private agencies. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

When Fadielah Moses’ marriage ended her world fell apart. After 16 years of marriage and five children with her husband, the prospect of starting a new life as a single mother felt unbearable. “He was my high school love. He was the only person I could open myself up to. It was so hard to recognise it was over, it was a nightmare.”

Moses had known for a long time that her relationship with the man she married aged 21 was disintegrating. “I had kept going for so long because of the kids but I wasn’t trained in this. Nobody told me one day you might get a divorce and this is how you go about it. It’s not a nice feeling when you’re next to a man but his mind is on someone else. I needed to get rid of this feeling because the longer I put up with it the longer I was going to feel bad.”

I wanted a better life for my family and could already see the way my life was going

Moses was brought up in a Muslim family in Cape Town, South Africa. She describes her upbringing as sheltered and often felt restricted by her religion. “I had a very good childhood; there was never a shortage of anything. But we were raised in a way that you stay behind the gate.”

In 2009 Moses’ marriage ended and she moved back into her mother’s home with her five children. “It took me about two and half years to recover. I went to work but I lost so must weight and became a different person. I didn’t recognise myself because I’d always been outgoing and well-dressed. I was phoning into work sick and couldn’t cope through the day but luckily I didn’t get fired. They knew I was a good employee.”

Eventually Moses found the energy to focus on her family’s future. “I knew I had to start my life again because the day came when I cried my last cry. I said to myself ‘every single day I leave this house I’m going to feel good about myself. Even if I only have 50 cent in my bag, nobody needs to know about it. I’m not going to be a raggedy doll because it’s not who I am’.”

Moses began investigating opportunities abroad and got in touch with a friend living in Ireland. She remembered watching videos of the Irish countryside as a child and was intrigued by life on this small island thousands of miles away. She arranged to travel to Ireland on a tourist visa and investigate opportunities for study.

She arranged for her husband to take care of the children while she was away but knew her mother and siblings would disapprove of the trip. “I needed to uplift myself and get out there. I was a grown woman. I wanted a better life for my family and could already see the way my life was going. There was no improvement for me in South Africa.”

Moses arrived in Ireland in May 2013 and signed up to a course in tourism and hospitality after she secured a study visa. Shortly afterwards she began training as a carer so she could work part time while studying. She missed her children desperately but chose to stay in Ireland in the hopes that they could eventually join her.

Nearly five years later, Moses lives in Dublin where she works part-time as a home carer while taking a degree in business. Even though the hours are long and pay is low, she’s developed a real love of her work caring for elderly people.

“My first client through the care agency was a nun. The first time I saw her I was so scared. I came from a very stern Muslim background with five daily prayers. Being in a nun’s house, that was a strange moment. But once I introduced myself and started caring for her, it’s like you’ve been doing it all your life.”

Moses finds her work hugely fulfilling and falls asleep at night “knowing that I did something meaningful for someone that they couldn’t do for themselves. It’s nice to know when that person looks at you they’ll show so much affection and gratitude. I love the fact that home care allows you to have a one-on-one interaction with this person. You become part of that home.”

However, there are many downsides to care-work including long hours and poor pay. “Because many care workers are immigrants most of us don’t have our families here so we don’t need to work 9-5 or do the five-day week. People want to squeeze every last bit of juice out of you.”

No one judges me here. What I wear here, how I present myself, this is how I want to be

She feels lucky to work for a reputable homecare agency but says many of her friends are exploited by private agencies that force them to work long hours for below minimum wage. “To be honest I won’t say I’m struggling. I’m living a five-star life compared to many other carers, even people who have been here for 16 years.

“We’re not just carers, we take care of lives. We didn’t study seven years to become a doctor but we dress, we feed, we give medication, we give companionship, we hold their hand and reassure them that everything is okay.”

Moses recently got involved with the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland “My Fair Home” campaign which is calling on the Government to introduce employment permits for migrant carers and standardise contracts. She hopes these measures will give her more visa security in the long term and subsequently allow her to bring her children to Ireland. She visits her children in South Africa once a year but longs for the day when they can join her in Dublin.

Asked how it feels to live so far from loved once, Moses’ eyes fill with tears. “I shouldn’t cry in a public place like this but it’s dreadful. To see kids going to school here, seeing families go to McDonald’s on a Saturday, that’s difficult.”

Moses says living in Ireland has allowed her to be true to herself. “I think my family can see the person I’ve become. They see I can stand on my own two feet here and have a different attitude towards me now. I needed to heal after my divorce and Ireland has helped me heal. No one judges me here. What I wear here, how I present myself, this is how I want to be.”

We would like to hear from people who have moved to Ireland in the past 10 years. To get involved, email newtotheparish@irishtimes.com. @newtotheparish