In all likelihood the story of my life could have ended even before it began. My family struggled to make ends meet. I have six half-siblings who live with my family in Ghana. I am Madarlin*, a true blue Ghanaian girl with dreams that nobody believed would come true. When I was 8 years old I shifted to the city with my grandmother to complete my schooling till Grade 10. There was no money for me to go to college but I knew that I must learn some trade to survive the rat race. Growing up I was aware that college education was a far-fetched luxury we could never afford but I was determined to put 2 of my half-siblings through college.
Right after school, I joined a photo studio and worked as a receptionist. I was adept at handling customers however it was the art of photography that I was drawn to. Whenever the resident photographer was not available, I would experiment with the camera to practice photography. The manager at the photo studio was surprised when customers would come and ask him if the receptionist could click their pictures! My love for photography was boundless. I took my passion for photography to the next level by working for one of the largest malls in Ghana where my job was to click pictures of different functions, be it weddings, birthdays or any other parties. I was happiest doing what I loved the most. Even though I was good at my job, I had to put my siblings through college and I needed money for that. Fortunately blessings always found their way into my life.
One of my customers once told me that I could get a job as a photographer in the Middle East. He further said Dubai is home to many people from Ghana. Expats in Dubai largely consist of people who leave the comforts of their home and seek greener pastures to build better lives for their families. I was completely sold on the idea of travelling, pursuing photography and being a Ghanaian living in Dubai. After putting in a lot of thought and money, I finally got my visa processed and made the big move to the UAE. After landing here, I struggled to find a foothold but I was determined to succeed. I distinctly remember travelling to the outskirts of Abu Dhabi for a job interview, being rejected and crying unabashedly on the roads of Abu Dhabi. I was hungry, exhausted and did not have any money to buy food or a bus ticket to Dubai! Kind people at the bus station bought my tickets and put me on a bus to Dubai.
Eventually, I did find a job as a security guard. It was not a cakewalk. I had to put in long working hours but I persisted because my family lived comfortably and my siblings went to college. I missed watching sunsets or even seeing daylight, as the nature of my job required long hours to be spent indoors. I continued to send home a large part of my salary to build my siblings college fund, without splurging on branded apparel or fancy food or anything expensive. Since I was the breadwinner for my family, I invested a lot of time researching the best way to send money to Ghana. When I returned to Ghana after quitting my job as a security guard, my biggest surprise was my mother had managed to save a good amount of money for me. Those savings were a blessing as I took a small sabbatical and then came back to the UAE, with renewed vigour, to search for a job that appealed to me.
Grace and blessings came my way when I got a job in a pharmacy with a decent salary, good working hours and a weekly off. Today I can buy whatever brand I fancy but my priority is to be a certified photographer in the UAE and fulfil my dream of clicking pictures to make a living. This life has not been an easy ride, in fact far from it. Without a shred of doubt I’m blessed to be on this ride. I’m grateful for having persevered and persisted. When I look back I cannot help but be thankful for each of my struggles as they were the stepping stones to my success story.
However today when I look back at life through sepia-tinted glasses I know that I am blessed, truly blessed.
*Disclaimer – Please note name has been changed as per request