There was excitement and anticipation in the air as Valeria’s children prepared to begin a new school year on March 3rd. Months of saving every dollar, and combining it with the government’s small education subsidy was finally enough so Valeria could purchase new school clothes, shoes and backpacks full of school supplies. However, the excitement was short-lived. The three school-age children, Elmer 9, Abraham 8 and Belkin 7, were only two weeks into this school year when the Covid-19 quarantine closed their school and sent the children into confinement at home. The only one who was happy about the situation was their little eighteen-month old brother Yejon; he had regained his playmates!
Home is a large but modest structure made of tin. Though there’s no electricity or running water in the house, they have a propane two-burner stove in their kitchen. This stove gets a real workout because the most remarkable thing about this house is the number of occupants. Twelve! Valeria and her four children have welcomed into their home their grandmother, Valeria’s three sisters and three of a sister’s children.
The activity and busyness of this extended family has been a welcome distraction from Valeria’s sadness and financial situation. Sixteen months ago Valeria’s husband and the children’s father died from drowning, a tragic accident that plunged this little family into even greater poverty. Yejon was only three months old, and besides raising children, cooking and washing clothes, Valeria’s only other skills were sewing and crocheting. Now she, her mother and three sisters sew native dresses and crochet small bags to provide a small income for them all. Even so, the appearance of the Buenos Vecinos volunteers bringing food to supplement this family’s meager pantry each month is a very welcome sight.