Stuck at home waiting out the COVID-19 to peak and the pandemic curve to flatten, many complain about the forced confinement and are not shy about voicing these out in social media.
I do my best to ignore these messages in my feed in social networking and messaging apps. As I was checking the unfollow boxes, my news feed started to turn positive and began to showcase extraordinary stories of ordinary people rising to the challenge of this unprecedented global medical challenge.
I met individuals who are cooking to feed the medical personnel, even stranded construction workers. People racing against the clock so that the extreme poor living in Payatas will not go hungry while they await government assistance. Volunteers who chose to adopt indigenous folks, time and again a marginalized population of our society. Even families raising their hands to patrol their neighborhood and keep people in their homes, safe and free from the virus.
If you are feeling defeated from the trials of this time, their stories may just inspire you to leave your couch and jump into action.
THE LUNCHBOX PROJECT
Before the quarantine, Lutz Espiritu was busy preparing boxed meals for young students of Life Academy International in Quezon City and Every Nation Preschool in Bonifacio Global City. When the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancelled classes for the rest of the school year, Espiritu did not hang up her apron or close her kitchen. Instead, she kept on preparing meals, this time choosing to feed those who may go hungry due to the virus outbreak.
“During the first week of the quarantine, I received a forwarded Viber message from a Rizal Medical Center (RMC) personnel asking for food assistance. Since we are in the food business catering to school kids, we thought of asking our clients (parents of kids) if they are willing to donate their children's school lunch payments to this cause. Majority of them agreed,” shared Espiritu.
The 150 ready-to-eat packed meals have fed medical front liners of RMC in Pasig City, San Juan Medical Center and Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital in San Juan City, and Dr. Jose Rodriguez Hospital in Caloocan City. Health Workers of St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City and RMC that are temporarily housed in Every Nation and the staff operating the housing have also received meals, plus over 130 stranded construction workers housed in their barracks who cannot go home to the provinces due to the lockdown.
Espiritu is grateful to the parents who allowed her to start this project, plus many others who have donated more such as friends and friends of friends, including the School Directress of Every Nation Preschool Sheryl Panlilio.
To date, she has prepared nearly 1,800 meals and hope to continue. If you wish to get involved, you can contact The Lunchbox Project at 09178739448.
“On behalf of the donors, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the COVID-19 front liners. No amount of meals can make up for the sacrifice they give us. The Lord bless them,” said Espiritu.
PARA SA MGA KATUTUBO
During the lockdown, Nina Ibanez-Danao chose to adopt some 84 members of a cultural minority group composed mostly of students plus their teachers.
“When my husband and I learned about their needs, he immediately bought food such as rice, eggs, bread, fruits, ready-to-cook meats and more. When he got home, we stared at each other, trying to grasp the enormity of the challenge before us. We knew that the help they needed is bigger than what we can provide,” recalled Danao.
She posted a call for help on Facebook and was overwhelmed when friends and strangers reached out. They brought food, others sent money, while others offered to look for more donors.
“At first, I was nervous about accepting money from strangers. It’s a huge responsibility. But they need help and it’s the only way I can continue helping. I created a Facebook page so I can maintain transparency and accountability. Donors are invited so they can see where their money goes and they can track the progress of the efforts. We now have 50 members. I post donations, updates, and a list of priority needs for those who are donating in kind,” explained Danao.
Thanks to Facebook, electronic banking, and the strong wave of Bayanihan Spirit, Danao met many kind-hearted strangers online including volunteers Leah, Cherrie, Chrissy, Mitzi and Manolo who continue to find more volunteers and donors for their cause. If you’re interested to help, you may contact 09055588837.
“There’s nothing special about what I’m doing. I’m just one of so many ordinary people doing little things to help others so we can all survive this crisis. By God’s grace, we will,” said Danao.
APPEAL FOR PAYATAS FAMILIES
Meldy Fider and her family may be confined in their home, but they are working closely with Father Paul Uwemedimo of Puso Ng Ama Foundation (PNA) and striving to feed some 300 hungry families from Payatas in Quezon City.
Payatas is familiar to many as it served as one of Metro Manila’s garbage dumpsites. While the landfill was closed years ago, it remains home to hundreds of thousands of poor families, now facing greater hardship from the quarantine.
“So many are hungry and we have so much time on our hands that’s best to be put to good use,” related Fider when asked why she is supporting this cause.
PNA is aware of around 2,000 people in Payatas who are in urgent need of food. While they would like to give all of them a large food packs to last them for a week, PNA is a small organization with limited funds. Right now, their goal is to provide enough rice for these families that can last for 3 days to help them survive while they wait for the aid that has been promised by the government.
“We are in very hard times. Many people are fearful, many people are confused, many people have lost their income and many people are going hungry. But this is also a time when we see so much love being put into action. Many people are making sacrifices for others. We see it in the people who although themselves poor and lacking food give away the relief goods they have given to others whom they believe to be in even greater need. A wave of love, generosity, sacrifice and service is being unleashed and it is in this spirit that PNA is seeking to help in this present time,” appealed Father Paul.
Donations are welcome and you can contact [email protected] or 09052477082 for more details.
KEEPING THE NEIGHBORHOOD SAFE
Writer Eileen Mencias lives in a modest gated community and her family owns a convenience store that’s given them access to the neighborhood pulse for decades.
“When the lockdown started, we felt the need to inform people to stay home. We started with just a reminder that COVID-19 is real. Then we put in the number of cases with the deaths to raise the awareness of those buying from the store. It was only when we put in the stats that they started paying attention,” narrated Mencias.
Protective of her neighborhood, Mencias also signed up and joined the neighborhood patrol, an initiative of the president of their homeowners association. “There are portions of our perimeter wall that has been torn down and we have a significant number of elderly-empty nesters. One of our regulars in the store is such and I had her in mind when I joined,” explained Mencias.
As of last count, there are already 80 volunteers for the neighborhood patrol, giving Mencias time to do more, including bringing meals to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the government-run health research facility leading the fight against COVID-19.
Taken singly, her contributions may appear small, but collectively, they show how ordinary folk can rise to the challenge of arresting the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In terms of information and raising awareness, I think most of those who buy from the store have found the COVID count helpful. I’m not doing anything special. I’m just doing what anyone would do.”
“At home, we have started monitoring our temperature on a daily basis. When someone goes out of the house, we disinfect and take a bath before going inside the house. In the store, we have a container for the money so that we won’t have to handle it much and wash our hands very, very often.”
Mencias ended by saying that fighting the pandemic should start with ourselves, the family and the community. “People need to be armed with knowledge so they can best decide for themselves.”
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.