When a very glamorous and upbeat 22-year-old Deborah appeared on RTÉ’s First Dates season two, she garnered respect and admiration from viewers. Her date, not so much, but that’s another story for another day. Deborah’s own story beggars belief and Ryan Tubridy invited her into studio to unpack a little bit of her extraordinary life.
After the breakup of her marriage, Deborah’s mum moved the family from Nigeria to Ireland, three children in tow, and settled in Naas, but things weren’t easy for Deborah growing up.
“I would stay my childhood was characterised with just having my mum in her room for long periods of time. If my mum came out of her room, it was a special occasion. I guess for me I didn’t really know that was something unusual until I’d go to other people’s houses and I’d be like, why is your mum around, cleaning and bringing you to school!”
Deborah’s mum suffered from severe depression and Deborah’s situation became increasingly difficult as the years went by and she found herself in care by 11 and homeless at 13.
“In an ideal world you’re being brought to an emergency foster family or something like that but this wasn’t an ideal world… There was nowhere to bring me so I ended up in a homeless hostel… The staff had to lock me in my room to keep me safe from the other residents.”
Deborah had to leave in the mornings, head to the Focus Ireland offices to do her homework during the day and returned in the evening, with no guarantee of a bed. Things started to look up when Deborah was given a place in private residential care at 14 with two other girls.
“It was great. I felt like they were my sisters. It was really nice… That was my first Christmas getting to do a proper Christmas list in years. I remember when I went to go and look at the house, I said it was Disneyland. It was just a normal house. There was nothing special about his house but it gave me as close to a sense of (being) a normal child as I could have imagined.”
As if that wasn’t enough for one teenager to deal with, Deborah found herself pregnant with son Liam at age 14.
“When you live in care and you get pregnant, you have to move into these mother and baby homes and they’re not very well supported is my understanding… I was absolutely terrified that I was going to have to leave this new home that I finally found and move into one of these places.”
Alan, the manager of Deborah’s new home, who she describes as “a second father” made an appeal to have Deborah’s own home turned into a mother and baby residence and Deborah credits this for all the success she has achieved in recent years, and she has been successful. A mere 8 weeks after Liam’s birth, she sat her Junior Cert mock exams, went on to complete her Leaving Cert, studied accounting in DCU and landed her dream job in accountancy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers, all this and she’s only 24 years old. Both she and son Liam are math whizzes.
“You’ll never see me happier! I love sitting doing tax and sitting down and doing financial accounts and my friends just think I’m such a nerd!”
As for finding love, the First Dates approach mightn’t have worked but something tells us this is one woman who’ll find what she’s looking for.
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