A terrible accident leaves a family reeling in pain — and poverty. Then Child Champions step up with a gesture that gives them new hope for their future and a path toward healing.
One of the sources of livelihood in the province of Toledo, Cebu, Philippines, especially for stay-at-home mothers, is making rags that are used for cleaning homes, trucks, jeepneys, and tricycles.
Rags are cheaper alternatives to cleaning cloths or towels.
Making rags may not be a prestigious job, but it pays the bills and puts food on the table.
Maricel, the Rag Maker
Maricel was a rag maker. She and her family lived in Toledo and earn the equivalent of $9 to $14 a day, which paid for their daily food and the kids’ school fees.
Her five children, Angelo, Angelica, Leah, Alejandro, and Nigel all attend school. Angelo, Leah, and Alejandro also are enrolled in a Hope Center.
Since school buses aren’t common in rural areas like Toledo, the kids ride a motorcycle or a “tricycle,” a three-wheeled motorcycle taxi, to get to school or a Hope Center. If the Hope Center is in the kids’ neighborhood, they can walk there.
During the week, Maricel ensured they ate a full meal with rice and a meat, fish, or vegetable dish so they didn’t have to buy food at school. It was a daily grind for Maricel to make ends meet for her family.
An Accident That Changed Their Lives
On the night of July 28, 2022, the family received devastating news about Maricel. While riding a motorcycle on her way home from a visit to her relatives, she crashed into a moving bus and was killed.
Maricel’s sister, Uray Emie, was the first to hear the tragic news. In her misery, she gathered all her strength to tell Maricel’s children.
“They were shocked by the news and won’t stop crying,” she says.
Maricel’s passing not only crushed their hearts, but it also made life harder for them.
Living Without a Mother
Mothers are the light of the home. When this light is gone, it’s harder to navigate life, especially for a child living in poverty.
“Many things have changed since she was gone,” Leah, 9, says. “I miss her cooking a lot and the way she took care of us.”
Leah is the third-eldest child among the siblings and is the most emotional after their mother died. Whenever she remembers her mother, she cries in the room she shares with her siblings.
“If only I can bring her back to life. I love her very much,” Leah says while wiping her tears.
Angelo, 17, the eldest sibling, stopped attending school and started working at a construction site to help his siblings.
“I want to go back to school, but I also need to work so they can continue going to school,” he says.
The children’s stepfather Gil works in construction in Manila far away from Cebu.
The financial support he sends to his children is not enough to sustain all their needs.
After the accident, Leah, Angelo, and their siblings had to figure out how to survive with the help of their Aunt Uray, who sleeps with them at night, making sure they are OK. Sometimes, they sleep in their Aunt Uray’s house, which is close by.
Aunt Takes on the Role of a Mother
According to Uray, Maricel was a good mother. She remembers her sister as someone who always made sacrifices for her children and ensured they were happy.
“They were a happy family,” she says. “She made time for her children.”
Uray now takes on the role of a mother to Maricel’s children. She takes care of them together with her own four children. She cooks food for them and ensures they continue to go to school.
“Alejandro asked me if he could call me ‘mama’, and I said yes,” she says, knowing how much they miss their mother.
But if there is something that Uray is thankful for, it is that Maricel raised her children well by teaching them basic skills at home such as cooking, washing dishes, doing the laundry, fetching water, and showing them a livelihood skill that will eventually help them through life.
A Livelihood Skill Passed On
Uray is also a rag maker. When Maricel was alive, they helped each other make rags.
Maricel would lay out the pieces of small cloth on a round paper about 7 inches in diameter, stuff it with shredded pieces, and then add another layer of a bigger cloth to hold them together. She stacked them up to 50 layers and then sent them to Uray’s house to sew on her electric sewing machine.
A finished rag costs 1 peso. In a day, they make around 500 to 800 pieces (making the equivalent of $9 to $14).
Making rags is simple, and that’s why Maricel’s children were able to learn it. And when she passed away, this livelihood provided hope for this family in a hard place.
A Hopeful and Joyful Sound
Since Maricel’s passing, the family’s house had been enveloped in silence, punctuated by crying. To make money, the kids would bring their rags to their aunt’s house to be sewn. They were struggling to get by.
But because Angelo, Leah, and Alejandro are enrolled in Kids Haven Hope Center, their Child Champions stepped up to help. The Child Champions, utilizing survivors’ support provided by Hope Centers to families who have lost their primary caregiver, bought a brand-new sewing machine for Maricel’s kids so that they could make and sell their own rags.
Today, the whirring sound of a sewing machine has replaced the silence in their house.
With their own sewing machine at home, the kids no longer have to bring their rags to their aunt to sew. It allows the girls, Angelica and Leah, to sew and create a variety of projects in addition to the rags.
The family is so thankful that Angelo, Leah, and Alejandro are sponsored through OneChild. And by supporting them in this difficult time, their Child Champions provided them with a livelihood that supports their needs.
Now, when the children have spare time, some sit down on the floor of their living room patching and piling the pieces of cloth, while others work at the sewing machine to make rags and other projects with the help of their Aunt Uray.
This not only this helps them have an income for their daily expenses, but sitting down together, telling stories, and laughing together somehow makes their burden lighter.
The presence of a loving and supportive Aunt Uray is a big blessing to the children. The prayers and assistance of their Child Champions at the Hope Center motivate them to continue pursuing their dreams.
And having a livelihood that they can take part in gives them the confidence in life that they can survive anything — and heal.
“OneChild is a big help to my children,” Uray says. “The sewing machine is expensive, and we are thankful that they gave this to us. I want them to continue their studies. I am willing to support them. That’s why I am thankful for all the help we receive from OneChild.”
Making rags may seem an insignificant thing in this world, but to this precious family, it’s a source of great hope given to them by their mother Maricel.
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Watch and listen as Angelica creates rags to sell:
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