Monday, June 22, 2020

Covid19 Reflections

Through My Lens
By Sunhee Kim

LM Sunhee Kim from South Korea shares her reflection on the exacerbation of hunger and poverty amidst Covid19. While others focus their worries against contracting the virus, a lot of people are in distress searching for food;  food as their priority, the threat of Covid19 as secondary.

"Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry..."-  Pope Francis

As a measure to limit the spread of Covid19 in the Philippines, the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon was set on March 17. Most of the things we need for our daily living such as public transport, stores, and restaurants stopped at an instant except those which provide basic necessities  (e.g. supermarket, pharmacy, hospital, and so on), and critical services. There was the restriction of the movement of people and a curfew that I had only seen in tv drama was imposed. Instantly, I was forced to stay home. The day before, I took a rest at the Columban Lay Mission (CLM) house and celebrated the Feast day of St. Patrick in Singalong. Looking back, it was like a dream.

I began my first ever community quarantine life, imagining what would have happened if I had stayed at the CLM house. I had no sense of reality in the first few days; I enjoyed quietness I had rarely experienced in Manila.  I planned to do this and that, things that I could not do before this unexpected free time. The reality I faced, however, was not as nice or comfortable as time went by, as the ECQ was extended.

What broke my heart is the reality that people suffer from hunger and poverty, especially the urban poor who have lost their means of livelihood and had to be sent home due to the ECQ. One of the unforgettable news for me was that some residents took to the streets to demand food supply or financial assistance from the government. Sadly, however, they were arrested. They were hungry and only asking for food and urgent help. On the one hand, it is understandable for the government to take sterner measures to prevent the spread of the disease. On the other hand, I would like to ask back “What is more important than human dignity and human rights for survival?”  At the same time, I reflected on how much I tried to pay attention to people who are having a hard time in the midst of the ECQ: the jeepney and tricycle drivers, the peddlers in the streets, the day workers and the irregular workers. They are not far from me; they are those who I regularly meet in my mission area.

Sunhee at the Light the Life Candle Project
The “Light the Life (LTL)” candle project which I have been managing was also affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.  As a result of the ECQ, the eight mothers who work in the project have had to stay at home; no work, no pay. LTL, a small livelihood project, is not registered with the government, so the mothers were not qualified for the Covid-19 cash aid of the department of labor and employment. They had a tough time with their own circumstances during this pandemic: they are the breadwinners in their family, their husbands are non-standard employees working as construction workers. They have no money to buy milk for their children.  One mother even has to undergo dialysis three times a week. They received relief packs from the government, yet it was not distributed often. It might wet their lips, but it could not quench their thirst.

It is not only the unemployed but also the employed who are suffering the economic hardship due to the pandemic impact. This is not just a problem in the Philippines. My family in South Korea has the same difficulty. They are working, yet their income has decreased. It led them to tighten their belts. It is not easy to witness people around me in a trying situation, especially if they are my beloved family members in need. Though sad and sorry I could not help them. I am just grateful they are well and safe when the severe coronavirus outbreak in South Korea happened. Like everything, the community quarantine has its pros and con. Now, I can attend mass and liturgies through various channels during this time. I can even attend mass every day if I want to, something which I had always thought but could not practice before.  Inspired by one priest’s idea, I posted photos of people who are in my prayer intention on the wall in my room. When I offer the sign of peace to them in the picture during Mass wishing their peace, it brought me the serenity of mind as well. It is an indescribably blessed experience.

Socio-economic activities have slowly resumed since the general community quarantine was implemented. As I am preparing to return to my ministry with the new normal, I have concerns about what would happen.  I may have to accept something new I have never experienced before, whether I want it or not. It will take time. I admit my weakness, I pray to the Lord with faith. May he take my fear and worries away. May he comfort me and give me the courage to face the difficulties before me.

Finally,  I would like to express my gratitude to the Columban mission partners and individual benefactors for their generous support to the Columban mission, the mothers in the Light the Life candle project was able to receive emergency assistance. It was a great comfort to them and gave them room to breathe in these days of trouble. I and the mothers thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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