Sometimes even heroes need a helping hand

Sometimes even heroes need a helping hand

Monday, November 30, 2020

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When Miguel Murray goes to work his children worry.

A porter at University Hospital of the West Indies, 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 health care 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 you’re looking at what you’ve achieved. It doesn’t really match up [with living expenses],” Murray said in a discussion with his partner Nadine Campbell on the porch of their home in Mountain View, St Andrew.

“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 $40 million in grants donated by United Nations Children’s Fund (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 Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CAPRI) found that 80 per cent of Jamaican households have lost an average of 46 per cent of their income during the pandemic. The grants aim to help alleviate that stress.

With two sons afflicted by asthma, including one who often requires hospitalisation, the couple say the funds have come in handy, covering essential items like school uniforms, books, and basic food.

They feel no hurt to their pride being PATH recipients, but working hard and being unable to make ends meet is hurtful for any parent, reasons Murray.

“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 Campbell. “Sometimes you sit [at] home and just wonder which part of this dollar can we afford to spend.”

The couple, though, take great comfort in their family — daughters Mickayla ,14, and Monique, 18; and sons Matthew, 9, and Maldini, 16.

“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,” Murray reasons.

Observing the COVID-19 safety protocols comes naturally for this household, given the occupation of the breadwinner. However, having to manage their sons’ asthma is a bit challenging at times. 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 the boys’ breathing.

With smoke drifting into the yard from a nearby home, Maldini, named after a famous Italian footballer Paolo Maldini, and Matthew know to pause their passion for football and return inside.

“I am very proud to know that he’s helping other people to live,” Maldini says of his father. “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].”

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