x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Prison mum and child freed with help from anonymous donor

His generosity has made freedom a reality for the Filipina, who is looking forward to the day her 10-month-old can watch birds from outside the prison walls.

KN was pregnant when she was jailed for three months in November 2010 for an unspecified financial crime, but has remained there ever since as she was unable to pay the debt.
KN was pregnant when she was jailed for three months in November 2010 for an unspecified financial crime, but has remained there ever since as she was unable to pay the debt.

DUBAI // One day the despairing young mother knelt down and prayed to God. Serving an indefinite prison term for debts she had no hope of paying, and wracked with guilt over the 10-month-old baby girl forced to share the jail term with her, she prayed for Him to "touch the heart" of a judge who could release her.

Days later, says the Filipina, she woke to the "greatest miracle". A man had appeared at the prison's door to settle her debts and set her free - and she doesn't even know his name.

The man, an Abu Dhabi-based British expatriate who does not want to be identified, read about KN's plight in The National this week and decided to settle the Dh77,500 debt that kept the 34-year-old and her young girl behind bars at the Dubai Female Prison in Al Aweer.

KN was pregnant when she was jailed for three months in November 2010 for an unspecified financial crime, but has remained there ever since as she was unable to pay the debt. Her daughter has never lived anywhere else.

On Tuesday, at about 10.30am, she paid a visit to the prison administration to request clothes for her daughter, who had grown out of her old ones, and was informed that Second Lt Fatma Shair Al Mazmi, the head of the follow-up unit at the prison, had some news for her.

"When Lt Fatima told me, I was shocked, I went cold and numb. I told her: 'You are joking'. She says: 'No, wait for me I will come back and tell you all about it'," she says.

She waited for two hours in the office before Lt Fatma came back to clarify. "I was thinking this is just a dream ... is this for real?".

Despite assurances from the prison administration, KN could not bring herself to believe her good fortune until yesterday morning, when she met her hero face-to-face.

"When I was walking to the office my heart was beating so fast but finally I got to see him. He had a very kind face and kind eyes."

She was so overwhelmed that she forgot to ask his name. Instead, she has given him a name of her own. "He is my miracle," she says.

"The day before I was praying to get to see the captain [prison manager], I was praying to God to touch the heart of the judge, this was the miracle I was asking for, although I knew you do not see miracles.

"I got the greatest miracle and today I have become a living testimony of a miracle."

Her baby girl was with her to share the special moment, but for her it was an even more bewildering experience. "She has not seen a man in her life before, apart from the cleaning personnel from far away, so of course she got so scared.

"He told me: 'When you get released, go home and start a new life and do not get into trouble again'," she recalls.

Her exact release date has not yet been set, as authorities must sort through three credit cases against her, though Lt Al Mazmi says the process should take no more than a month and a half.

KN has not told her older two children, who are 10 and 13 and live with her family in the Philippines, why she has been away for so long. "They only know that I work abroad," she says. She called them after meeting her donor to let them know she "might come back home soon", but has not yet told her family about the extraordinary offer that has transformed her life.

Her baby girl was the first and only person she told, and although the words are above her comprehension, the girl can sense a change in her mother. The despair has vanished and has been replaced with hope.

KN says she taught the girl her first word - bird - by pointing to the creatures as they flew past the prison's window.

"Throughout my life I saw birds in the cage and I was free. Now we are in the cage and they are free," she says.

"Today I told her: 'Finally, you will be seeing birds from the outside'," says KN, pausing suddenly as she can no longer stop herself from crying.

In a quiet voice, almost talking to herself, she adds: "Ya, soon she will be seeing birds from the outside."

wissa@thenational.ae