Until now I’ve told you mostly about the follow up work I did with Jackie’s beneficiaries. I met new people though, and I’d like to start telling you about them. I need to explain though, that I didn’t get the same detail Jackie did on a lot of the people I met. It was hard to ask questions, have them translated, have the person answer, have the answer translated, make notes and then ask the next question. It was especially hard when these were incredibly personal questions and it was clear I was assessing whether we would or wouldn’t help.
Personally, I also found it really difficult to see the levels of poverty people were surviving in. I’ve never seen anything like it before and a lot of the time I was just trying to hold it together, to not react so that people didn’t feel judged by this white woman, standing in their home, asking questions and taking pictures.
But on to the story:
One of Jackie’s friends had given her a list of tailors who had lost everything in typhoon Yolanda. There were a horrifying 29 listed, but three had been marked in red as being particularly in need. Jun (from my previous post) had been one, leaving me two, but I was told one was in an area that had a lot of NGO support so we went to see the otherm– a lady called Luz Nasinopa.
We arrived unannounced but, not waiting for an explanation, they dusted down a plastic stall for me to sit on. That gesture really touched me.
Luz (66) lives with her husband Elisoa (67), their two granddaughters Rhea (28) and Rachelle (25) and their children (Nicole; 8, Devine; 7, Bea; 5, Clarins; 3, Yannah; 2 and Windon; 2). Elisoa is a handy man but doesn’t get very much work. The granddaughters do washing and this is the family’s main source of income.
We sat talking to them in what felt like a concrete cell, but for them was home. It was brilliant sunshine outside, but inside it was dark and dank. All the family crowded in, wanting to know what was going on. There was no doubt in my mind that we should offer to help, so (through translation) I explained what we were doing and that we would like to help by replacing the sewing machine Luz had lost so they could have an additional income. Eliso burst into tears saying ‘thank you, thank you’ over and over. That started my tears off, followed by Luz and every adult in the room.
I asked if I could go and take a look upstairs. Part way up I stopped, feeling like an intruder again and asked Eliso if it really was ok. He misunderstood though and I think he thought I was asking if it was safe ‘yes of course’ he said ‘I built it all’. He was so proud of that.
Upstairs was just two rooms with a partial wall between them. All their belongings were there – a pitiful amount considering there are ten of them. As I started to turn back to do down stairs the older girls started saying ‘thank you, ma’am’ again and again. I told them not to and tried to make a joke out of it, telling them my name was Helen. So they repeated ‘thank you Ma’am Helen’ instead…
Just as I was leaving I remembered my crocheted owls and stash of lolly pops I had in my bag. I wanted to leave them smiling so I handed them out and was told ‘you’re so kind, Ma’am Helen’. I didn’t feel it though. That high I thought I’d get by offering someone concrete help actually ended up being a feeling of guilt that I had the means to help, while they had nothing, and how was that fair?
We bought the machine and had it delivered that day (that mission would fill a blog post on its own, but I would like to thank Bang again, for her amazing shopping skills and instincts. Had I been on my own, we would have either massively over spent or had to make Luz wait for 3 months due to customs issues affecting supplies of sewing machines). As Jackie did for Jun, I also gave her 500 PHP for materials so that she could get started right away. Luz was a happy lady.
The sewing machine cost 11, 450PHP, additional for materials was 500PHP. The total was 11,950PHP ( approximately £167 / $270)