When Miguel Murray goes to work, his children worry.
A porter at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), he’s proud of his supporting role ensuring that patients can be treated. But that work comes with the added risk of potential exposure to COVID-19 facing Jamaica’s healthcare workers.
“To be frank helping people is something that I really like to do. I have a passion for it. But, at the end of the day, when all is done your looking at what you’ve achieved. It doesn’t really match up (with living expenses),” shrugs Miguel, speaking with his partner Nadine on the porch of their home in Mountain View, St Andrew.
Healthcare worker making ends meet
“It takes a big pride out of your heart, because you want your kids to be alright. To cut it short, I wish for better.”
They are among 3,500 families of children with disabilities, selected by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for a share of J$40 million in grants donated by UNICEF to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) conditional cash transfer programme.
COVID-19 has increased the stress for many families. A survey by UNICEF and the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) found that 80% of Jamaican households with children have lost income during the pandemic – losing an average of 46% of their income. The grants aim to help alleviate that stress.
Recipient of UNICEF-PATH grant
With two sons suffering from asthma, including one who often requires hospitalisation, Nadine and Miguel say the funds have come in handy covering essential items like school uniforms, books and visits to the wholesale store.
They feel no hurt to their pride being PATH recipients. But the feeling of working hard and being unable to make ends meet – that’s hurtful for any parent, reasons Miguel.
“We go through the storm, we know what is hungry, we know what is facing us, but we never try to touch other people’s things,” adds Nadine. “Sometimes you sit home and just wonder – which part of this dollar can we afford to spend?”
Family bonds despite COVID-19
But family itself – daughters, Mickayla,14 and Monique, 18; and sons Matthew, 9 and Maldini, 16 – has been a comfort for Miguel.
“One of the main things is that you get to spend a lot more time with your kids – so you get more quality time. It’s not like before when kids come home, do their homework and are gone on the road. Now it’s a more precautionary lifestyle, there is a little better bond the more time we spend together,” he reasons.
Precautions. Observing health protocols in COVID-19 comes naturally for this household given the occupation of the breadwinner, but also having to manage their sons’ asthma. On any given day this can include a polite reminder to neighbours, and those who share the yard, not to burn items that can endanger their breathing.
Sons’ pre-existing health conditions
Today a smell of burning is drifting into the yard from nearby when the rain starts. Matthew, and Maldini, named after a famous Italian football player, know to pause their passion for football and return inside.
“I am very proud to know that he’s helping other people to live,” says the elder brother. “But he’s only human so I worry a lot for him as well, because a lot of people have died from this sickness (COVID-19).”
Tomorrow is a day off, but on Sunday daddy will be back on shift at the hospital helping others from 6am to 6pm.
Their superhero, and ours too.
National Parent Month
Did you know that November is National Parent Month? This year the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) is holding it under the theme ‘Fathers Rise! Lead and be Wise!’ UNICEF earlier this year interviewed another Super Dad from the same community as Miguel about his approach to positive discipline. You can read that story here. You can also visit this webpage we created to provide resources and advice to help families cope in COVID-19.