A Place To Call Home Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic


As a young child, Rona had to sell sampaguita garlands outside churches just to survive. Skipping a day of selling sampaguita would leave her with an empty stomach and warrant a beating from her alcoholic father. Had she been living the same life as before, Rona would have nowhere to go amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rona grew up in fear and uncertainty. Having food on the table in the morning doesn't always guarantee that there’ll be food that night as well. This depressing reality brought extreme frustration to Rona's father, whose income never seemed to be enough for the family's needs. This frustration manifests during her father's drunken episodes, that end with Rona getting violently beaten up.

For months, Rona had to make do with the comforts that the streets may offer. She relied on the kindness of churchgoers who’d buy more sampaguita garlands than they actually need so she could afford a meal. She made a makeshift family out of the strangers she met, where she found temporary refuge when going home was not the safest option. But Rona needed more than a momentary shelter.

Thankfully, the local authorities learned about her situation. She was brought to the local social welfare center and stayed there until she found a home at SOS Children’s Village Manila. Since then, she no longer had to worry about hunger nor abuse. She now belongs to a safe and loving home.

On her first day at home, she was welcomed by a small feast of her favorite meals that Mama Baby, her SOS mother, prepared. Gathered together with her new siblings, Rona shared her first meal with her forever family that day.

Showered with Mama Baby’s wisdom and kindness, Rona grew to become a smart and driven woman. She is a student-athlete, youth leader, and mental health advocate. And taking after Mama Baby’s love for cooking, she is now a 2nd-year Hotel and Restaurant Management student at a college in Manila.

(Rona together with SOS Corporate Relations Head Mr. Admore Alzate, Mental Health Initial Responder and Mental Wellness advocate Ms. Via Ruiz, and her fellow SOS youth during a mental health awareness talk at SOS Children’s Village Manila last February 21, 2020.)

Rona expresses her heartfelt gratitude to the people who shared a portion of their lives so that children in need like her can have a safe and loving home. With the health risk that COVID-19 currently poses, she’s thankful that she has a home to return to.

This month, as she turns 22 years old, Rona will be celebrating her birthday at home in SOS Children’s Village Manila. As the eldest child at home, she helps Mama Baby with keeping the house clean and assists in cooking nutritious meals for the whole family. In the afternoon, she plays with the newest member of their family, *Jake (6) who became part of the family last February, two weeks before the community quarantine was enforced.

Rona, as well as other youths and children of SOS Children’s Villages Philippines, are currently practicing home quarantine to keep them safe from COVID-19. They are in urgent need of food, hygiene supplies, and vitamins. Your kindness will go a long way in keeping them safe and in good health.

Disclaimer: Rona, who is turning 22 this April, gave us permission to publish her personal information for this feature article.