Only those affected by immigration and homelessness can understand what it is like. Seeking greener pastures in an attempt to survive has led to both positive and negative outcomes. Difficulties in life have led low-income African families to take more risks and seek greener pastures in an attempt to survive. My case was no different—times were too difficult to bear. I tried so many other things to make a living and support my mother, but economic challenges and high taxation rates made it impossible for me. Having big parcels of land as an investment, countless animals and more than two wives was considered wealthy in the majority of African society during the precolonial era, but now is a time of mixed fortunes. Children would survive with their relatives, who would turn them to domestic workers with no pay, as was my experience.
I lived with my aunt Serah throughout my childhood. At first all was well because she helped my parents to pay for my school fees and I had a second home. Being not married and childless she took me in as her child or at least as her son. This was a break for my parents. At least one of their children was being cared for. But this eventually changed after I finished school. I had to work in different places to try to support my mother with bringing up my siblings. My aunt once again came to our rescue when our father got into a bad accident in 2006 and all the parcels of land and animals were either sold or taken by rich relatives in the name of helping to offset the hospital bills that were too much. My father is polygamous and only lived under the mercies of the greedy relatives who molested my mother and her co-wives or grabbed at any little assistance they got. In total we were fourteen children from three women. After my father’s accident, some of them disappeared and others, like me, only could go back to my aunt for help.
After a while we moved to San Francisco, and my aunt promised to get me a job through a friend and help me get documented. The promise she gave to my mother was that I will get a good paying job and I will be in a better position to help. My mother sold part of my portion of inheritance and used the funds to process my passport and visa. My father, being mentally unstable due to the accident, had no say in the arrangement.
On arrival in America, things changed.
My aunt forgot about her promise to my mother. I did nothing different besides what I used to do while living with her back in Zimbabwe. At first I felt safe. I believed that since I had lived with her for a long time, she would consider me as her child and help support me. Days, weeks, and eventually months passed by, and I started to worry because I knew the help I was supposed to be giving to my mother and my other siblings was nowhere. I tried to ask her about this but she just told me, “Don’t worry, everything will be okay soon”. My worry grew and the few friends I had made also started to be concerned about the situation, which I had confided in them about. This annoyed her so much that she started to quarrel and shame me in front of her friends and my friends too, claiming that she has supported our family for a long time and the only thing I did was to talk bad about her because she was not blessed with any children. The annoyance became too much and she asked me to be ready with my passport, that she wanted me to go back to Africa for a while.
With my passport in hand and my bag packed, I was ready to go see my impoverished family and my sick father. Little did I know that she had a different plan all along. She went for a business trip and never came back. I stayed in a house that I knew nothing about waiting for her to come back. I tried to reach her to no avail. I became worried that there might be a problem. I tried communicating at home but due to their naivety it was so difficult for me to get help. Suddenly I found myself living in a country I knew nothing about, left alone in a strange house with an expired visa, nowhere to start from, no money or food, and nobody to guide me properly, especially on how I should deal with the situation I was in. One of my friends promised to hook me up with someone who could help me support myself, and even promised that I would make so much money to be able to get documented if I chose to remain in San Francisco. I was given a phone and some $100 and was told that there is a lot from where that came from. They told me I can make up to $500 dollars in less than a month if I can become street smart.
This convinced me that I had a friend who cared. I went back to the house happy, hoping that if what had been promised was true then by the time my aunt would be back I would have made a lot of money and even she would help me send some back home. Time went by with nothing from her or even her friends who used to visit her. I was pushed out of the house and went to live with a friend, but immediately he told me that he can’t afford to provide for me unless we shared the cost of everything. He promised to help me if I could work extra hard and make money as quickly as possible before I am found by the authorities.
For survival purposes, I relied basically on the information given, and I followed orders including orders to fight and at some point steal, or else to be fined or abandoned for not being a team player. I have been stabbed several times in fights, but instead of getting or being given proper medication, I was given cocaine that I then had to pay back once I got better, through increased selling. The lie I trusted was that with proper help I would get documented and it can help me get a decent job and money.
It’s more than a year with no passport (I misplaced mine) and with no money saved, barely living from hand to mouth, addicted to a dangerous business of hope, to a drug I only used to hear about—I had never seen cocaine in real life before, now it’s killing some of my colleagues, depressing some and giving false hope to some.
But what can we not do? It’s a million dollar question, because now you have to either survive by using and selling or not survive at all, for those who try to defect or quit are silenced so that they don’t share the selling secrets, territories to the authorities or competitors. A lot is happening out here in San Francisco that can’t be exhausted from this single article. I hope urgent help will come, so this message can reach as many as possible to help the illegal migrants like us, for the influence is growing fast and the suffering is getting worse day by day.