It’s easy to see why Rama is known affectionately as ‘Rama Mama’ by the women at the Lakehouse.
“I’m the oldest in the house,” she laughs.
At 76 years of age, Rama is worldly, educated and big hearted. She’s like a mum to the women who call the Lakehouse home.
“It’s our home. These women are my family. I love to cook for them and to spend time with them.”
It’s a very different home to the one Rama experienced in her 46 year marriage.
“It was like living in a prison. My husband kept me. There was no love, no affection. He was a very angry man,” says Rama.
Like many women living in India, Rama’s marriage was arranged by her father.
“I wasn’t as young as my cousins when I was first married. They were only 16 years old.”
“My father wanted his four daughters to be educated. I completed a science degree and didn’t get married until I was 21 years old.”
Her husband worked with airlines and his job took them from Hyderabad in South India to Dubai where they raised two children. Rama also put her science degree to good use and taught physics and maths.
When Rama’s daughter was older, she moved to Australia to study an MBA and, later, married an Australian man. Rama and her husband came to Australia to help look after the grandchildren while her daughter worked.
Those first memories of Australia are difficult for Rama. Her two week old granddaughter had been diagnosed with a serious health issue and would likely require treatment for her entire life. Rama prayed to the Lord to heal her granddaughter and when her prayers were answered she converted to Christianity.
Rama’s husband was a devout Hindu and could not tolerate her decision. This added more pressure to their relationship, and when they went back to India, Rama’s husband became increasingly violent towards her.
Rama’s daughter sponsored both of them to come and live in Australia, but her husband’s behaviours did not change.
“I did everything for him. The cleaning and cooking but he continued to abuse me. It was very hard.”
Eventually Rama realised that she could not take it anymore and some of her close friends helped her to leave the house. With nowhere to go, Rama turned to YWCA National Housing for support.
“I got this house last year. I have peace here. This is a home for me and I am very happy.”
Rama is a resident at YWCA National Housing’s Lakehouse – an innovative pop model providing much needed safe and affordable accommodation to women over 55 years old.
The Lakehouse is a collaboration with an aged care provider, the private sector and local governments. The building was a vacant retirement facility which was repurposed as temporary accommodation and has housed more than 50 women since July 2018.