“It was a blessing we didn’t think we would receive.” This was how Josephine Casis, a 55-year-old mother in Barangay Payatas, Quezon City, described the unexpected assistance her family received amid the coronavirus outbreak.

As schools shut down, non-essential businesses closed and public transportation remain prohibited, Casis also lost her job as a gardener, making it difficult to provide food for her five children who all rely on her meager income.

“It is really hard because I belong to the no-work, no-pay workers. Ngayon, wala po akong work totally,” Casis shared in a phone interview.

The first week of the lockdown was bearable for Casis. As a daily-paid worker, she bared they were lucky enough to have saved a scant amount of money to get through the first wave of challenges brought by the Extended Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon. However, luck, just like a family’s food supply, also runs out as time passes by.

“My son, who serves in a fast-food chain, also stopped working because of the lockdown, so we don’t really have an income,” she said. “Mahirap po talaga.”

The situation of Casis is just one among the stories of many urban poor families in the country who face the dire consequences of the ECQ. Low-income daily wage earners and workers in the retail and food industries are also some of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A diminished source of income could mean an empty dinner table for those who live by “hand to mouth”. With the help of the Department of Welfare and Social Development (DSWD), SM Foundation and Uniqlo Philippines conducted Operation Tulong Express, providing Casis and about 500 households in Brgy. Payatas, Quezon City with Kalinga (care) packs consisting of canned goods, cup noodles, water bottles and kilos of rice.

According to Casis, SMFI was the first to deliver food packs to their community. “They [DSWD workers] went to our community and listed our names. Good thing we have received food packs from SM Foundation, it’s really a great relief,” Casis said.

“Sobrang laki pong bagay kasi ‘yung cup noodles naka-tatlong araw po nilang almusal ‘yon, tapos may canned goods pa po, at maganda rin po ‘yung bigas matipid saingin,” she added.
“We are extremely grateful to SM Foundation. Kahit papaano po nakatanggap kami ng biyaya sa kanila,” Casis said.

In addition to relief operations, SM Foundation provides continuing service to help the Filipino public and support for medical front liners, hospitals and to the government to heal the country and curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

Aside from Payatas, SM Foundation also delivered food packages to areas in Makati, Marikina, Taguig, Paranaque, Cavite, Batangas, Pampanga, Bacolod, Antipolo, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and other provinces, reaching out to grassroot communities affected by the ECQ.

“It is so heartwarming to see how people work together for one common good. SM Foundation is here to help,” said Cristie Angeles who heads Operation Tulong Express at SM Foundation.