Single Mother Seeking a Better Life for Her Family, Exploited and Forced to Flee

For a single mother of three, what seemed like a fresh start for her family became an unfortunate story of exploitation, leaving her and her three children fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Maria is a single mother of three daughters, and when she was presented with an opportunity to move her family out of their poor, crime-riddled neighbourhood in Venezuela, she felt blessed. A couple visiting from Europe offered to sponsor her family and relocate them as a humanitarian gesture.

“This seemed like an unbelievable opportunity,” Maria recalled. “To get my daughters out of a place where they were surrounded by crime, and where there is not much hope, to build a strong future seemed too good to be true.”

The couple relocated Maria and her daughters to their home and obtained the required residency documents and work permits. However, things quickly took a negative turn. The couple started pressuring Maria in ways that felt uncomfortable and ultimately progressed to direct requests for sexual favors. Realizing that she couldn’t go on like this and fearing that her 14-year-old daughter could be next, Maria knew she had to escape the situation.

Maria seized upon the first moment they were alone and fled with her children. The family traveled over 600 miles to stay with distant relatives. While safe, the family found themselves with a new set of challenges. They were adding themselves to a four-person household already making do in a two-bedroom apartment. On top of that, Maria had no money, no job, and no possessions. Through the kindness of her family and one of our charity partners, Maria and her girls were able to survive, but with no clear path for independence or stability.

“I wish we could say this is an isolated situation of a vulnerable woman being exploited, but unfortunately, the individuals who are most in need are the most commonly taken advantage of,” said Brandon Sosa, CEO of the Barzilai Foundation. “Parents in unsafe situations are driven to find security for their family, but far too often, you find once you make it there, you don’t have the means to provide for them.”

Unwilling to be just another victim, Maria found work. Initially putting together multiple part-time jobs and working day and night to make ends meet. Now she has full-time, minimum wage employment, but not the means to get her family their own place or the essentials they left behind.

As part of our Exceptional Needs Grant Program, the Barzilai Foundation met with Maria and identified her most urgent needs. Getting the family get into an apartment of their own was critical. For a family that is struggling to put food on the table, coming up with funds for a deposit, furniture, and transfer of utilities is impossible. Also, with three growing children, replacing the clothes they left behind, getting shoes that fit, and regular essentials like hygiene products didn’t fit into their budget.

Working with Maria, we satisfied these urgent needs for clothes, personal essentials, and the means to secure and outfit an apartment of their own. Over the coming weeks, Maria and the girls will be working to get themselves into their new life. For all four of them, this is the chance to build a new life and to have the opportunity for a brighter future they were looking for when they left Venezuela. 

“We are so proud to be helping this family,” said Sosa. “Here is a mother who is willing to work and fight to give her daughters the best chance in life. The fact that someone exploited this family, that desire to provide for her children, is horrible. Being there for this family in this moment will have a lasting impact on all their lives. I am happy for Maria, for the girls, and for our foundation to be part of their journey.”

*For the protection of the family, personal details have been changed.