Benilda and Her Family
When six-year old Jahicha met us a year and a half ago she told us to “say her name right”. Zha-he’-cha, she insisted with a smile. She told us how excited she was to be joining her brothers and sisters at school the next school year. She loved the smell of their new pencils and notebooks and was eager to have her own. This year, some “angels” in the area bought school supplies for her and her siblings. They had just begun the new school year on March 2nd when a few days later the Panama Department of Education closed the schools to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Not only did school end, so did their education; the public school system does not possess the mechanism to provide on-line education. But she hopes that her older siblings might help her practice her new reading and math skills.
Jahicha looks up to her nineteen-year old brother Alexander. He became the “man of the house” three years ago when his father abandoned his mother and seven brothers and sisters. Alexander had enrolled in a trade school in David to become an electrician. He wanted to help his mom, Benilda, and the rest of the family. Bringing home $240 a month, she has been the sole income-provider with her three weekly house-cleaning jobs, but those jobs have now been suspended.
And yet, this family feels fortunate. Their bamboo house with its dirt floor and sturdy roof still keeps out the rain and, although there is no running water in the house, they do have electricity so that they can read and play games inside after sunset. Benilda says that she and the children want to thank Buenos Vecinos for the food they provide each month. It’s become a lifeline during this very hard time in their lives.