It was during a time of boisterous playing with her cousins that Hannah (16), screaming with excitement, first became aware of a lump inside her throat. The lump started to manifest itself, resulting in a swelling on Hannah’s neck. Two years on, the swelling has become the size of a big apple, and has robbed Hannah of her self-confidence. Last year, a kindly uncle gave her money to go to Bacolod to have the lump on her neck checked up. She was accompanied by her Aunt Eva, her father’s older sister, who is a Bible woman in the Baptist church in the village. “It is a goiter and it must be removed.”, was the doctor’s diagnosis at the government hospital in Bacolod.
Hannah comes from a very poor family. Her father Heman (46) earns a living from doing odd jobs such as planting rice during the planting season. These jobs however are few and far between, and because of the shortage of funds, it is not unusual for the family to have meals comprising rice and little else.
Josephine , Hannah’s mother, left her family to go to Manila four years ago. She was not quite right in the head, Hannah reveals. Quite often, when she (Josephine) did not have money to buy the things she wanted, she would leave the house and go home to her mother in Hinobaan, the next town. It was in March 2010 that she left for Manila and the family never heard from her again.
Since his wife left, Heman has been alone in bringing up his two daughters, Hannah and Jane (13). In April last year, he had an unfortunate accident; he got sideswiped by a passing pickup truck while walking along the road. He was projected a few yards and fell unconscious as his head hit a horseradish tree. He received some first aid in a small local hospital and had a CT scan in a private hospital in Bacolod, the fees for which were paid by the pickup truck owner. Heman was also prescribed medicines at the time but he could not afford to maintain the dosages due to lack of funds.
Heman continues to be subject to pain one year on from the accident; the nape still hurts; he cannot move his head freely, and when he lifts a heavy object, he gets a throbbing headache. He was told to have a follow-up checkup but this is out of the question because he has no extra money, nor will he ever have. As for the pickup truck owner, he believes he has given enough funds to Heman for his medical treatment.
Home for Hannah's family is a ramshackle dirt-floored bamboo structure in the remote village of Cayhagan in Sipalay, a five-hour bus ride from Bacolod. A few years ago, Heman took into his household his younger sister Fely (39) and her four-year old daughter Rhenafel who was born out of wedlock. Fely washes clothes for a family in the next village, once a week, for a fee of 120 pesos for a day’s work. This is just enough for the purchase of two kilos of rice, a small pile of dried fish, and some laundry soap. Fortunately she has some cooking skills, and with some capital, she could start a small business of cooking lunch dishes and snacks for sale.
Having seen and known the circumstances of Hannah's family, I am recommending a grant be given to the family for the following: Hannah’s goiter operation, Heman’s medical treatment, cooking capital for Fely, and home repairs. The grant assistance will go a long way in helping the family - the removal of Hannah’s goiter will hopefully restore her self confidence, Heman will be relieved of his discomforts as well as anxieties about his health and the cooking capital for Fely will enable her to provide more food on the table for everyone in the household. As for the house, the roofing will be replaced with new palm shingles and a decent partition will be put up in the bedroom to replace the worn out sheets which currently serve as walls.
Bernadette G. Togado
PSHF Negros Occidental-South