It was two years ago. Seven-year-old Mredula had just begun going to kindergarten and making new friends when her father suddenly left the family to move back to his village home. As a mother of three, Sriti was shocked to not see her husband with them anymore. But now, with her husband gone, her kids were her strength—and she had to be strong for all three of them. "At that moment I knew that I had more than what I had lost," she said.

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Sriti with two of her children Mredula and Oisharjo.

Today, her three children Anamika, Oisharjo, and Mredula are aged 18, 11, and 9, respectively. The family’s home is a single rented room with a common toilet and kitchen shared between 10 families. It is an extremely small setup, but in the city, it was all Sriti could afford. She worked as a part-time janitor for a nearby real estate company. Once her shift was over, she went to a private apartment to serve as a housemaid.

For over a million poor migrant workers such as Sriti, who come to major cities in search of jobs, it is very common for women to work in garment factories, beauty parlours, or cleaning jobs in corporate offices and domestic homes. Without any technical skills and lack of education, Sriti didn't bring in enough income to feed the four mouths in the family. Mredula has been part of Tearfund’s partner Compassion's Child Sponsorship Programme since she was four years old. Compassion's local partner helped provide her with vital practical support, like healthcare and education support, and fun opportunities to play. “We love to play at the project where uncle and aunties [the project staff] give us so many toys to play in groups,” she said.

However, as the number of cases of Covid-19 grew from March 2020 onwards, restrictions on movement were imposed. Mredula was unable to attend her child development centre. Devastatingly, Sriti lost her job—only janitors who could live in the office premises were being considered for work.  Liza is a social worker at Compassion's local partner. “Ninety per cent of our beneficiaries’ parents lost their jobs. It was a nightmare thinking about the children’s future," she said. Project manager Taposh said the pandemic's impact is severe. "Continuous prayers were the only act that was keeping the parents strong when the pandemic was first announced in our country,” he said.

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Sriti with her daughter Mredula.

With her mother out of work, Mredula spent more time with her. It was unusual for the children to see their mother during the day as for the past two years, she had dropped them off at school early in the morning, returning home late at night to eat the cold leftovers that remheart-warming line she could hear at the time: “Your child’s gift money has arrived!” A wave of warmth flooded her from head to toe. That day, Mredula had received a total of US $900 (NZ $1,357) as a financial gift for her family from her sponsor. This was the breakthrough they needed to escape from their vulnerable state caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

With the money, Mredula brought a refrigerator, kitchen rack, new tunic, and ration supplies for three months, including 50 kilograms of rice, 15 litres of soybean oil, and lentils. Until now, the family had not been able to store their food or any leftovers. She also bought a cheap television set to provide entertainment while the family was confined at home. Through the family gift, Sriti found new confidence in herself and strength from the support provided by Compassion's local partner during the pandemic. Even after they’ve received the gift, the project staff made their regular calls and keep in touch with families to ensure that the children were doing well. What began as an unprecedented situation from the impact of Covid-19 has turned to reassurance for Mredula and her family, thanks to Compassion's Child Sponsorship Programme.

 
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Mredula with the families new television!
 

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