A woman who became homeless after losing her job and having to spend her life-savings on emergency medical treatment for a troubled pregnancy has thanked the hundreds of readers who helped her pay off her debts.
Within hours of Soniya Sameera's story being published in The National last month, donations began flooding in. The Dh40,000 she needed for rent and to pay off a loan was donated within just 24 hours.
“I was shocked,” said Soniya Sameera. “I was speechless and I still am. I am so grateful and so thankful to everyone for their generous offers.”
The 32-year-old microbiologist first came to the UAE nine years ago. She worked hard and earned a promotion from an assistant at an insurance company to assistant manager at another insurance company in Dubai.
Her husband was a gym trainer and though he lost his job, the two still managed to keep afloat.
Their troubles began last year at a time the couple should have been celebrating. After struggling to conceive for 10 years, Ms Sameera became pregnant with twin boys.
“That was sadly the beginning of all my financial problems,” she said last month.
She had complications during her pregnancy and required bed rest but her employers found that inconvenient and she lost her job.
“They called me in and I literally cried and begged them and asked them to not fire me,” she said.
Ms Sameera had also taken out a personal loan and was paying the rent for their one-bedroom apartment in Deira.
Without health insurance and a job, she could not pay her rent or hospital bills. The cheques she had deposited for rent bounced and she was briefly detained by the authorities.
“Thankfully they saw that I had a baby and saw I was breastfeeding so they let me go and took my passport as guarantee,” she said.
The family had no resources, were living at a friend’s house who would be leaving the flat in a few weeks and their visas had expired. Ms Sameera also lost one of her twins shortly after birth.
In addition to that, her sister urgently needed a transplant because her kidneys are failing. “Since I’m the eldest sister, I need to support her but I can’t now without a job,” she said.
Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber – the charity handling Ms Sameera’s case, said she needed money for rent but also needed support to find a job
“She has up to eight years of experience in medical insurance and is not idly waiting around for charity however she currently needs support,” he said.
Once Ms Sameera’s story was shared, the organisation was overwhelmed with people coming forward to help.
“We have never seen anything like this. We were receiving dozens of calls every day from people wanting to donate and help the family. The staff couldn’t keep up with all the calls and text messages that were coming in,” said Mr Al Zahrani.
Ms Sameera also received job offers. She is still sorting out visas for herself and her family but said that with her outstanding debts paid and a steady job, “I am finally settled and can get my life in order.
“This would never have been possible without all the support I was given.”