The blessing of family in tough times
“I am so grateful to NPH because they have always supported me, even in the middle of the pandemic. Without them, I have no one: only the NPH family,” says Brenda, a single mother of three from the community program of NPH El Salvador.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on El Salvador is alarming in spite of an early response. The country moved into lockdown on the 14th of March, before any cases of Covid19 were known. Lockdown still continues today, while neighbouring countries begin to reopen their economy. The case numbers of Covid19 continue to rise in El Salvador and the country’s healthcare system is not equipped to deal with this.
The children living at our NPH home in El Salvador have had everything they need during lockdown, thanks to the support of generous donors around the world. However, the families whose kids attend the community programs, such as our daycare centre and school, are facing a more difficult situation. NPH is trying to remain in contact with these families and help them through this extremely difficult time.
Dinora Perez, a social worker at NPH El Salvador, says, “The main difficulty that most Salvadorian families face is the lack of work, as they are unable to earn money to feed their families. They come from very poor communities. The majority of the parents survive on informal employment – cleaning houses, washing and ironing clothes, etc. – and because of the mandatory lockdown, they have had to stop working.”
The Director of our community programs, Reina Gil, along with the teachers, try to remain in contact with parents using WhatsApp. It isn’t easy, to get in touch with all the families, with 69 children from the daycare and 160 kids receiving community scholarships.
Reina explains, “It is impossible to contact all the families, as some of them are so poor that they can’t afford a cellphone or internet. However, despite the difficulties in communicating, we have been able to talk with around 60% of the families. They have told us how they are coping and shared their concerns. We therefore do our best to reach out to cases where families are struggling the most. But in one way or other, most are facing the same difficulties.”
One of the families in the community program is Brenda Hernandez, an Hermana Mayor (older sister), whose financial dilemmas escalated just before the pandemic.
Brenda is a single mother of three children; Christina who is eleven; Miguel, seven; and Marjorie, four. Brenda arrived at NPH El Salvador in 2003 when she was 16, having spent most of her childhood in another home after losing her parents when she was young. Brenda reminisces about the great experiences at the NPH home – Casa Sagrada Familia. “I met wonderful people who supported me in so many ways.”
She adds, “When I graduated from high school, I started my year of service, supporting with childcare duties, but I decided to leave NPH with my boyfriend at the time. We spent many wonderful years together and had three beautiful children.
Sadly, when I was pregnant with our last baby, Marjorie, my partner and father to my children was killed. He used to sell bread. I never knew who or why they did this to him. After his death, I remained heartbroken and alone for a long time.”
Suffice to say, coping with this loss has been painful for Brenda and she still finds it difficult to talk about. Being a single mother at any time is challenging, ensuring the kids are happy, healthy, attending school, while having the pressure of holding down a job in order to pay the bills. This is no easy task in a country with high unemployment, and no safety net for people who lose their jobs. Unfortunately the COVID-19 lockdown have made these struggles even more intense.
“I rent a small house in a dangerous urban area. Due to my current work situation, I can’t afford to move somewhere else right now. A year ago, I started working as a salesperson in a department store. Unfortunately, I was fired in January because I was unable to reach the sales target. I then tried everything to find another job but it’s very difficult in El Salvador. Many people are looking for work. But since the lockdown, it’s become impossible.”
Brenda approached NPH El Salvador for support, and as always, help was at hand. “Thanks to NPH, I have received basic food and cleaning supplies, as well as information and advice about how to stay safe from the virus. I can’t let my children become sick. I take care of them very well. I am so grateful to NPH because they have always supported me, even in the middle of the pandemic. Without them, I have no one: only the NPH family.”
It makes Brenda emotional thinking about the support. She adds, “They have been there from the very beginning and through everything that has happened. They’ve helped me with jobs and enrolled my children in the community programs, which has enabled me to cope, concentrate and work hard. I give thanks to the many good people in the NPH community team. I call them my angels.”
Despite being in the midst of the pandemic, Brenda has hope for the future, thanks to the tools and coping mechanisms that NPH have taught her. She also utilizes the philosophies of NPH to motivate her and her children, to work hard and become active members of society.
“I have told my kids to take advantage of all the opportunities offered by NPH, telling them to study and work hard so they can achieve and become great people. I believe that life is not made up of just material things. These difficult times make us reflect and be closer to God and our family,” Brenda smiles.
“I am therefore very grateful to be part of the NPH family; it is thanks to Father Wasson (the founder) that we have such a beautiful family.”
NPH has supported Brenda as well as many other families who struggle to survive on a daily basis. Following Fr. Wasson’s philosophy, NPH continues to help those in need. As Father Wasson once said, “We are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and we must care for each other to bring peace to our world.”
If you are in the position to offer help to these vulnerable children and families, like Brenda’s, please do so here.
Author: Carmina Salazar