As world leaders officially declared a coronavirus pandemic in March, Saint Francis Ministries’ policy and advocacy team began the important work of determining how children and families would be impacted. The work continues today as the United States and those we serve continue to be affected by COVID-19.
Staying home during the COVID-19 crisis is supposed to be a safety measure that protects our community, ourselves, and our children from further spread of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, for many children, home is anything but a haven – especially when so many families already at risk must live in isolation together for extended periods of time.
It’s difficult to enumerate all of the gifts that have impacted Saint Francis during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are grateful and honored by community support that makes it possible for us to continue to provide the best, most supportive care for children and families. For instance, McCormick Distillery, like many distilleries, switched their production, and then donated 15 gallons of hand sanitizer. Great Plains Manufacturing in Salina also donated hand sanitizer.
Headed for an appointment across town with two little children in the back seat, the last thing Carolyn needed was car trouble. Yet, that’s what she got. Ever since she volunteered to provide kinship care to her 3- and 4-year-old relatives, she’d relied on that car to transport them to doctor appointments, visitations, and case management meetings. Now she had no vehicle. And though she works full-time, the repair costs were way beyond her means. She relayed her predicament to her Saint Francis case worker, who submitted a needs request to CarePortal, and within hours a local church stepped up to pay for Carolyn’s car repairs.
Darlene Miller will be 85 years old in August. She has spent much of the last few months of her 84th year tucked in behind her sewing machine, making more than 1,300 masks for the Grand Island, Nebraska, community where she lives. In fact, her masks have been shipped throughout the state, and some landed at Saint Francis offices where they were gratefully received for children, families, and employees.
The COVID-19 pandemic created an unprecedented shift in how Saint Francis Ministries approaches the services we provide for children and families. Impacts from the pandemic unfolded over several months in the communities where Saint Francis works, and the organization expects to see long-term challenges. With an initial focus on supporting staff and clients in staying safe and healthy, Saint Francis has begun to develop new ways of serving children and families.
Yeni Telles spoke no English - and as first-generation Mexican immigrant student at Los Angeles High School, no one cared. Assigned to “C Track,” few expected she’d accomplish much anyway, except maybe drop out of school, get married, and take a low-wage job to get by. U.S.-born Track A and Chicano Track B students could take courses that prepared them for college and other educational opportunities. Students on Track C barely knew other opportunities existed. One teacher, however, encouraged potential in his students. Yeni still remembers the day when he asked his class to share what their dream job would be, and she said she wanted to be a flight attendant. “Flight attendant?” he said. “Why not be the pilot? The pilot drives the plane.” That day, Yeni began to imagine a future beyond what she’d been told to accept.
Saint Francis Migration Ministries asked refugees we worked with to share whatever details of their story they were comfortable sharing. A refugee, who preferred not to be named, shared the information below:
Over 70.8 million human beings were forced to leave their homes. They come to this country seeking safety, security, and a life free from violence and persecution. Most of the students I have in class were born in refugee camps. They spent the entirety of their childhoods—in refugee camps. The one family that I work with that did not have this experience only spent 6 years in the refugee camp because one of the family members was in desperate need of medical attention.
I’m from Congo. My family is Muslim. When I was 13 years old, my father borrowed money from his friend. Then, when he came to get it my father told him, “I don’t have your money, but I have my daughter that you can take her.” The man was 35 years old, and I stayed with him for about 6 months until the war started.