Shaira continues to dream amid the COVID-19 pandemic 

The outside wall of 12-year old Shaira’s house serves as an alphabet wall which she uses to teach her niece, Crystal. They’ve been using it more often since the enhanced community quarantine was enforced in Metro Manila due to coronavirus. The wall is also where her mother hangs the already worn out laundry tub and other things that do not fit inside their 20 square meters house. Every time she mentors little Crystal, she removes those that block the alphabet.

“It’s dark inside the house so it’s better to let her familiarize her ABCs here,” she says. Shaira’s family does not have electricity. “My parents do not have enough money for the bills. Now that father cannot work, it has become even harder for us. There are days when we can’t even eat,” she adds.

Her father, Fernando is a construction worker who earns around USD60 in a week if there is available work. Her mother, who has speech difficulty, earns around USD20 from accepting laundry work.

Neither do they have water connection. Sometimes, they fetch water from the neighbor or goes to a nearby deep well, passing through the narrow walkway of the urban poor community. As the world campaigns for frequent handwashing with soap and physical distancing to protect families from the virus, Shaira says they can barely cope.

COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the well-being of children

When the Phiippine government declared an enhanced community quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it meant Shaira’s parents could no longer work. From at least USD80 each week, the family is down to zero spending money.

“It’s not easy. There’s eight of us in the family so we easily run out of rice. We rely heavily on relief goods, stretching the supply to as long as we can until the next help comes,” shares Shaira’s father, Fernando.

“It’s difficult to be stuck in the house the whole day, seeing my children not have enough food to eat. I might cry if I tell you more so I will stop from here,” he adds, pain written all over his face. Fernando also knows that feeding the children canned goods every day is not good for their health but with disrupted livelihood, they do not have a choice.

World Vision recently provided 1000 families, including Fernando’s with at least 3-4 kilograms of fresh vegetables.

Dreaming still 

Shaira understands the situation they are in. She admits that she cries sometimes, especially when there’s nothing on the table. But she soldiers on, hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic will soon come to pass and she could return to school. Her school is her breathing space, the place she’s most excited to go to on weekdays. She’s been looking forward to her graduation from elementary. Her older siblings were not able to go to high school because of lack of money but she’s determined to enter high school in June and to also finish college someday.

“I want to become a teacher and teach the children in need, even if it’s for free. I want to be the first in the family to graduate from college,” she shares.

Like how she consistently removes the laundry tub and all other things that block the written alphabet on their  wall, Shaira consistently nurtures her dream, blocking negative thoughts that would stop her from hoping for the best.

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