After Daniella and her three siblings lost both their parents to Ebola, the community abandoned them. NGO health workers took away the dead bodies, along with anything in the house which might have been contaminated – including bedding, clothing and mattresses – but no one helped the children who were starving and cold within, sleeping on bare wooden floorboards. No one came to the house, or offered them any food; their once-friendly neighbors were terrified of contracting the disease, and ran away from the children whenever they left the house.
Eventually their neighbor Rose saw that the children were not ill – even the baby, who had been breastfeeding – and decided to take all four of them in. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards her husband lost his job. Now the six of them live on the salary Rose makes from selling bread and cold water, in the house opposite the children’s family home, meaning that the children have a daily reminder of the terror and grief they went through earlier this year.
“Things are very hard for them. Even the older ones cry a lot,” Rose says. “I feel bad for them. I try my best to make them happy, but sometimes there is not enough to eat. I can’t give them money for lunch, and being hungry can lead children astray. But they are all in school now, which is so important. It’s important for their future, because they don’t have anybody else. What if something happened to me? They have to be able to look after themselves”.
Daniella, who is 16, is happy today, despite her grief and the worries she has for her family’s future. She does not know if there will be any money for school fees next semester, but she sat her year-end exams today, and they went really well.
The family has benefited significantly from Street Child support. Rose and her husband, who did not have children of their own, chose to attend a Street Child parenting workshop; among other useful techniques, these teach participants how to help children who have had traumatic experiences cope with their grief and pain. Rose also received an Urban Business Scheme grant to buy stock for her business, and attended a workshop where she learned about writing a business plan and keeping track of profit.
“Street Child has been really helpful,” she says. “Today you can see the children smiling because of them. When there’s no food, I can call them and ask for help. We do not need to panic now.”