Voices of Guests: Samuel and Ninoska
Samuel and Ninoska always have a smile, even though life hasn’t always smiled on them.
At 14, Samuel came here from Liberia with his parents. “I didn’t know I was undocumented until I left school,” recalls Samuel, “since then, my immigration status has been a stumbling block for me.”
When Samuel and Ninoska – a natural born US citizen – fell in love and married, they expected this stumbling block to be removed. “Once we married we thought Samuel would be legal,” explains Ninoska, “but the lawyers say there’s nothing they can do until the law changes.”
The couple were blessed with two children, Isaac and Genesis, and despite Samuel’s inability to get a secure job they got by, sometimes relying on the soup kitchen for meals. But in 2011, when Samuel developed a drug problem, they couldn’t get by anymore.
“I knew I needed help,” says Samuel, “I went into rehab to clean up.” Ironically, it was in rehab, as Samuel strived to get well, that things took a turn for the worse. Assaulted by another client, Samuel suffered a severe spinal injury that left him confined to a wheelchair.
“Being undocumented, I get no benefits,” explains Samuel. “Even this wheelchair was donated to me.” Ninoska had no choice but to give up her job to become Samuel’s caretaker, a decision which lost the family their income and ultimately, their home. It was then they realized they could get more than a hot meal at Holy Apostles.
“We were in desperate need of help when we came here,” recalls Samuel. “They got us clothing, Christmas presents for the kids. They helped us find somewhere to live.”
Today, the couple live in a shelter, while Isaac and Genesis – now 8 and 7 – live with Ninoska’s mother. “It’s very hard on all of us,” Ninoska says. “We’re a family. We want to be together, but we have no other choice right now. At least we know they are safe.”
Miraculously, despite losing his ability to walk, his home and his children over the last two years, Samuel has remained drug free. “You do the best you can, take it a day at a time,” he says, “coming here is a life saver. The spirit of good will is tremendous, it gives us hope.”
Ninoska too, is hopeful. She hopes changes in immigration laws could make Samuel eligible for the care he needs and bring the family back together under one roof. Until that happens, she resolves to focus on the positives in their lives.
“We have each other, two wonderful children, we have love,” says Ninoska, smiling. “We have the support of everyone in this wonderful place. We have a lot to be thankful for.”
David, December 2013