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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

UAE Helping Hands: Jordanian family of seven left with no support after father flees

The family does their best to support each other but are unable to pay for their youngest sibling’s school fees or for their mother’s medical bills

An elderly mother of seven who was abandoned by her husband is making an urgent plea for help to ensure her youngest son completes his education.

Umm Abdullah, from Jordan, first moved to the UAE in 1996 with her husband after he was offered a job as a chemical engineer in Abu Dhabi.

“It wasn’t an easy life and it was hard to get my husband to pay for anything,” she says.

At the time, the couple had a son but would go on to have six more children, making it impossible to Umm Abdullah to work.

After some 30 years of marriage, the couple divorced in 2011. Umm Abdullah says she could no longer turn a blind eye to her husband's extra-marital affairs and he had ceased paying for anything in the house.

“He was bad from the beginning and we always had problems because of his affairs," she says.

“Through the courts I did manage to get him to pay a few thousand dirhams every few month and help with school and university fees."

But the inconsistent custody payments and delays often meant Umm Abdullah was forced to turn to charities for help.

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“When he did pay custody, it was never more than a few thousand dirhams,” says Umm Abdullah, who channelled most of the money into school and universities to ensure her children would be well educated and have a better chance at life than she did.

“I was so relieved every time one of my children graduated from university,” she says.

In 2016, the money ran out entirely when her ex-husband fled the UAE, after losing his job, to seek asylum in Europe. The family has not heard from him since.

Umm Abdullah says that while her ex-husband’s abandonment has made the family closer, it also greatly exacerbated their financial difficulties.

Her eldest child is now 37 years old and is married with his own children. Two of her daughters are also married with children but her youngest, Abdullah, is just 15 and is still at school.

The family does their best to support each other with the eldest of her children helping to pay for rent and food but, with families of their own, they are unable to pay for their youngest sibling’s school fees or for their mother’s medical bills.

Umm Abdullah has developed stiff knees and requires use of a cane. Her medication costs Dh600 per month. One of her children is partially deaf and requires a hearing aid and frequent medical check-ups.

“My eldest son, who is working and has two children, put down cheques so that the school does not expel Abdullah.”

Abdullah is in Grade 10 and his school fees cost Dh17,000 - an amount the family is yet to pay. Umm Abdullah’s eldest son has given the school blank cheques but if they are deposited, he risks legal ramifications for bankruptcy.

“I am prepared to go without food or water as long as my son is studying,” says Umm Abdullah.

“We have no support and without an education, my sons are lost but I don’t want my eldest son to go to jail either over the cheques.”

Hisham Al Zahrani, manager of Zakat and Social Services at Dar Al Ber says the family has been struggling for a long time.

“Their father’s whereabouts are unknown and we assume he is somewhere in Europe. He has not asked about his children or bothered to even call. We hope we can support the family through donations to help cover the school and medical fees.”

salnuwais@thenational.ae

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