After Losing Her Husband, Daughter & Health, She Needed to Stay Strong for the 4 Children Still Counting on Her

Posted on December 17, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Read Yaa Serwaa’s New York Times Neediest Cases Profile

Not long ago, Yaa Serwaa considered herself lucky.  She and her husband had been struggling to make ends meet in Ghana, infamous for its extreme poverty, when she won the Green Card Lottery in 1998, entitling her to legally immigrate to the United States.  She brought her husband and put down roots in New York City. Here they had five children, two with autism, and worked double shifts as nursing and home health aides to support them.

“Life was good,” Ms. Serwaa said in The New York Times Neediest Cases profile published in this week’s Sunday edition.  “I was working, getting money.  He was working, too.  And then, all of the sudden, things just started getting rough.”

Ms. Serwaa’s husband was deported four years ago because, unlike her and their children, he lacked legal immigration status. This was when Ms. Serwaa’s luck turned. 

Their oldest daughter, Princess, who had autism related to seizures, died from a grand mal seizure a few months later.  Around the same time, Ms. Serwaa received word that her husband died of a heart attack in Ghana.

Ms. Serwaa’s blood pressure skyrocketed. She began having panic attacks. Her asthma became so severe she now often needs her nebulizer to complete a sentence. And without her husband’s income, she could no longer pay the rent. 

The landlord evicted her family; she and her four living children wound up in a homeless shelter.

Gradually, Ms. Serwaa, now 46, has been grieving while improving her family’s situation. She cannot help but remember, though, all she has lost. 

Fortunately, Ms. Serwaa learned of Catholic Charities NY’s HomeBase program that provides families threatened with eviction support they need to get back on their feet. 

“They listened to my story, and they said they’d try to help,” she said.

Staff counseled Ms. Serwaa, helped her family find housing, gave them a turkey and all the trimmings to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own apartment, linked them to Catholic Charities St. Nicholas project to get them new warm coats, sweaters and clothes for the holidays and is using $1,200 in Neediest Cases funds to buy the family new dressers and beds.

Read Ms. Serwaa’s full Neediest Cases profile in The New York Times

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