Single mom returning from abroad struggles to fend for 2 kidsBy Cris Evert B. Lato
CEBU CITY- Juliet knows how it feels to have money and then lose it. She was surrounded by relatives and family members when she worked as a salesperson of an energy-saving company in Quezon City and later as a domestic helper in Kuwait.
But everything changed in 2010 when she came home from Kuwait and gave birth to her second child through cesarean operation. Her savings were wiped out. Worse, she incurred debts.
“When I got home, my small house was quiet. I saw my eldest son and he told me he was very hungry. My brother and his wife, who lived in the house and took care of my eldest son while I was working, left us for good. They sent me a text message. I think they were anxious where to get money now that I am poor,” shared Juliet.
With two sons to raise, Juliet went from one company to another, hoping to find even a menial job. She knocked on the doors of government offices to ask for assistance.
For one year, she and her children lived on alms. “I was suffering but nothing was more painful than seeing my 9-year-old son changing for the worse. He was not well fed and was teased in school. From a daily allowance of P50, he was reduced to nothing,” Juliet told the Inquirer.
She said her eldest son Mark was not used to household chores since he lived a comfortable life while she was working.
With no money left and still weak from the hospital, Juliet said she had to ask her son to fetch water, make fire using paper and firewood and cook porridge.
A half kilo of rice would last them a week. If they were lucky, they would buy P2 worth of junk food that serve as their viand.
Mark also learned to talk back and became disrespectful, an attitude he learned from neighbors. He refused to listen to his mother. In rage, Juliet admitted she would hit Mark and hurl cuss words at him.
One day, she told her son, who was in Grade 4,that he had to stop going to school since they didn’t have money anymore. “He cried and asked me to look for ways to make him continue his studies. I saw the perseverance in my son. I witnessed how he would sell bread to his classmates. He really wanted to study,” she said.
Juliet approached the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which later referred her to Terre Sans Frontiere (TSF) Children’s Center, a nongovernmental organization that gives shelter and educational assistance to children. TSF was founded by French nationals Gerard Jose and Marc Louvel.
Although it was hard to be separated from Mark, she knew it was for his own good. In 2011, Mark joined TSF with other children.
Social worker Susan Tingzon said TSF children came from mixed backgrounds but most of them were neglected and whose parents could not afford to send them to school.
The children stay in the center for up to two years. Those who do well in school and in the center are given a one-year extension.
“Here, they are disciplined to take responsibilities. They wash their own clothes and guided by social workers and volunteers in their studies,” Tingzon said.
The challenge for the center now is to have a permanent home. They are only renting the house and lot located in Barangay Basak San Nicolas in Cebu City.
A nongovernmental organization had offered to give them a building but TSF should be able to provide the lot.
Although they continue to receive funding from TSF France, the depreciation of the euro against the peso forced them to ask the parents for counterpart support such as toiletries.
Parents visit their children every third Sunday of the month and are given seminars on various topics including effective parenting, which Juliet religiously attends.
On Sept. 16, Juliet joined other parents in another seminar, which allowed them to share their feelings and experiences with each other.
Their children, on the other hand, participated in an Inquirer read-along session, which was organized in partnership with the second-year students of section Averrhoa of Cebu City National Science High School.
The children played games and received school supplies and food packs from the students.
“We hope to welcome more groups in the center, who will help us make the lives of the children better. Right now, what we are hoping for is a permanent home for the children since we are only renting this place,” Tingzon said.
Mark is set to leave TSF in March 2013.
Juliet said she was now in “panic mode” since she would have to look for a permanent job to support her son’s education. She earns P200 a week by cleaning a chapel.
“I will do whatever I can to send him to school. I will support him because I am blessed to have my son. I will look for more work if that would mean making him achieve his dreams,” she said.