Latin America at the epicentre of the virus

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on El Salvador is alarming. There are almost 18,000 cases and the infection rate continues to rise sharply as in most of Latin America. As well as the threat of becoming ill, many families are facing economic hardship.

Parents unable to work

Dinora Pérez, a social worker at NPH El Salvador, says, “The main adversity most Salvadorian families face is the lack of work. They are unable to earn money to feed their families and come from very poor communities. The majority of parents survive on informal employment – cleaning houses, washing and ironing clothes, etc. – and because of the mandatory home quarantine, they have had to stop working.”

Staying in touch with local families

Children and young people living at the NPH El Salvador home have everything they need during lock-down, thanks to generous supporters and the incredible commitment of care-giving staff. However, for families in local communities whose children attend NPH El Salvador programmes, the situation is increasingly difficult.

The director of Father Wasson Community Scholarships and the day-care centre, Reina Gil, along with the teachers, try to remain in contact with parents using WhatsApp. It isn’t easy, especially having such a wide outreach, with 69 children attending the day-care centre and 160 receiving community scholarships to attend school.

Reina explains, “It is impossible to contact all the families since some are so poor that they can’t afford a mobile phone or internet. However, despite the difficulties in communication, we have been able to talk with around 60% of the families, who have told us how they are coping and shared their concerns. We therefore do our best to reach out to cases where families are most struggling.”

Children with food supplies
Families in need receive food from NPH El Salvador

Brenda’s story

Among the families in the community programmes is Brenda Hernández, who used to live at NPH El Salvador. Brenda’s financial difficulties escalated just before the pandemic.

Brenda is 33-years-old and a single mother of 3 children: Christina who is 11, Miguel, 7, and Marjorie, age 4. Brenda arrived at NPH El Salvador in 2003 when she was 16, having spent most of her childhood in another institution after losing her parents when she was young. Despite this, she feels she had great experiences at NPH. “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 at NPH, but I decided to leave NPH with my boyfriend at the time. We spent many wonderful years together and had 3 beautiful children.”

Brenda with 2 of her children
Brenda with 2 of her children, Christina and Miguel

Tragedy strikes the family

“Sadly, when I was pregnant with my 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 or why. After his death, I remained heartbroken and alone for a long time.”

Brenda’s struggle to provide for her family

Suffice to say, coping with bereavement has been painful for Brenda and she still finds it difficult to talk about. Also, being a single mother at any time is challenging, ensuring the children live a healthy and stable life, are happy and attend school, paying for uniforms and school materials, among other things. This is coupled with paying bills and holding down a job. In a country with an unemployment rate of 6.4% and no safety net for people who lose their job, this is no easy task. However, with the Covid-19 lock-down, these struggles are 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, with many people looking for work. But since the lockdown, it’s become impossible.”

Three people eating a meal in a simple home
Brenda’s home in a dangerous neighbourhood

NPH El Salvador provides support and hope

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 contagion. 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. I have only the NPH family; without them there is no one.”

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 enrolling my children in the community programmes, which has enabled me to cope, concentrate and work hard, thanks to many good people in the community team, whom I call my angels.”

NPH prepares children for the future

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 uses 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 moments 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 that we are able to have a beautiful family.”

Brenda with her children

NPH philosophy for caring for those in need

NPH has supported Brenda as well as many other families who struggle to survive on a daily basis. Following Father Wasson’s philosophy is what moves NPH to continue helping 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”. This is what motivates NPH to continue working for the children and their families.

family with supplies

You can help

The virus is creating challenges for everyone, everywhere. In Latin America, increasing unemployment is plunging even more people into poverty. If you can help, please make a donation to ensure that we can continue to support children and families through this very difficult time.