Supporting children and their families in the time of coronavirus
On normal days, I would be in the community by now, doing home visit to World Vision’s sponsored children and their family, coordinating with community partners for the different programs we are implementing on the ground.
But this is not one of those days.
The last time I went to the community was March 11. We had a training on education with our partners but we had to cut it short due to the increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila. Since then, all of us needed to work from home. It has been more than two weeks and it still feels unusual for a field staff like me. I used to go to the community almost every day. Now, I cannot even see them face to face because of the enhanced community quarantine.
This is one of the days when I am extremely grateful for technology. Through text message, phone calls and even Facebook messenger, I get to connect with them. The community quarantine does not stop us from checking on our children. Our chat groups with community leaders have never been more active. I provide them necessary updates and they tell me their situation in their village. On March 12, day before the community quarantine was implemented, they told me that they were doing their normal work – some were in the bay catching fish, tricycle drivers were out in the streets, street vendors were out there, hoping for a good income. Things changed the next day. Reports of possible cases in the community came out so strict measures were done to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Local officials were tasked to monitor the people’s situation. Barangay (village) health workers started roaming around the community, telling people to stay at home. The village closed the ingress-egress of the compound to all public vehicles to limit the movement of people in the community.
I started receiving more updates since then and my heart breaks every time I read text messages about their struggles. A mother of four children told me, “Mahirap po, ma’am. Wala na kaming makain. Di makapagbiyahe ang asawa ko. Lugaw na lang muna kami. At magtipid lang sa bigas” (It’s difficult. We barely have foods. My husband (a tricycle driver) can’t go out to earn a living. We settle with porridge for now and we are running out of rice). A child has shared with me his fears of going outside because of the situation. Parents are also anxious because they are in an urban poor communitywherecoronavirus could spread fast if not prevented.
As a field staff, I hope I could go to them and assure them that God is in control of everything. I can only give them comfort through words behind the screens of my laptop and cellphone. I worry about them. I worry about the children who are experiencing the secondary impact of the coronavirus. With their parents unable to generate income during these times, their health might also suffer because of lack of nutritious foods. Disrupted education could also have an impact to them.
But my hopes remain high. Those in the frontlines are the same people I’ve been working with to implement programs for the well-being of children. I have hope because World Vision partners and sponsors have also started helping. People across the globe are helping. With their generosity, we have already provided personal protective equipment to our village frontliners. Keeping them safe also means keeping our children protected. In the next days, World Vision will also be providing emergency essentials to the families. I am more than happy to coordinate all these even while I work from home.
I have high hopes because the programs we have implemented in the village, through our child sponsorship program, are bearing fruits. Our Brigada Pagbasa (Reading Brigade) for example is helping our young kids whose education were put to a halt because of COVID-19. Prior to community quarantine, we have been doing regular tutorial sessions for children after their school. After completing 16 sessions, the tutorial kit is given to them. Now that classes are disrupted, they are able to use those kits to improve their reading skills. I am hopeful because before the number of COVID-19 cases grew to thousands, World Vision has been doing community sensitization about the disease and we continue to do so, maximizing our partnerships in the villages, and so I trust that our communities are equipped with the right information to protect themselves.
I can’t wait for all these to be over. I look forward to going back to the community soon, but while we all wait, I pray that our love for one another continue to abound and that we will not let anyone get left behind, especially the most vulnerable ones.
Written by: Abigail Bayucan, World Vision Philippines Program Officer in Manila.
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