Children and food during the ECQ

         This was the second time these two boys went to our place during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).  They’re not supposed to go out of their homes.  We reminded them about it but we could not send them away without granting their request for coconuts.  We had to give them at least two and added two eggs.

After this photo was taken, they came back on a motorcycle because an uncle who was a COVID-19 frontliner (also a client of our computer shop) thought they stole the coconuts and eggs.  We vouched for these kids and they were brought home.

          For the past several years, my wife Nerissa and I have been groping with how to help children in the community who enter private lands taking fallen coconuts, pili nuts and picking other products like cacao. We finally started harvesting from our cacao tree when we replaced our perimeter barbed wire fence with a cyclone fence.

          It has been a struggle since our emotions and thoughts run from feelings of being violated by people simply entering our lot and taking whatever they can.  You can’t report them to their parents since the parents themselves seem to have sent them for the errands.

          What should we do?  They are stealing.  But they are hungry.  

          Initially, we would find ourselves shouting at them out of surprise.  Then we would realize some of them are afraid and embarrassed, but they are hungry.  For years, Nerissa and I would resolve to not get caught off guard and treat them well, talk to them and grant their request as long as they are polite.  Still, occasionally we react out of surprise.

          Before the ECQ (lockdown) Nerissa and I already agreed to help Tim and Tom (not their real names) because they would ask permission and they were thankful and polite.  One of them is in Grade 1 and the other is Grade 2 (although he should be in Grade 4 by now).  Nerissa would ask them why are they not in school to which they would reply they don’t have classes or they have no teacher.  

          We resolved to help them but we don’t want their parents to keep asking them to “beg”.  We decided that when they do come back we need to inculcate in them the dignity of work.  In exchange for coconuts and eggs, we would ask them to pick up wrappers thrown by people outside our compound.

          But then, the ECQ happened.  Twice they came looking for “Ate” (Nerissa) and twice we gave but we told them that was the last during the ECQ.  They can come back after the ECQ.  Now that the ECQ has been extended we’re thinking about these two boys and the others who have been asking for help.  They live nearby.  Nerissa on at least one occasion saw Tim with his mother carrying firewood they gathered near our place.

          People need to eat, children especially. Hopefully, we could find them, though we’re also not supposed to go out due to the ECQ.  One of the feelings I hate the most is the feeling of helplessness. 

This second photo was taken in 2015.  It shows two boys husking coconuts using sharp stones.  They probably “stole” those coconuts.  You know they’re hungry when you see cracked pili nuts, banana peals, or cacao skin outside our fence.

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