The struggles of a mother

AS she held the tiny malnourished baby in her arms, tears flowed down her cheeks. She could think of nothing else but the cold embrace of death upon the tiny, naked body of her granddaughter, Stephanie.

Lilon Joel from Ambrym, then 57, was filled with anguish and despair. Her granddaughter was being sent to Tongoa to live with her aunt and paternal grandmother, at only the tender age of three months. Now she was returned, at a year old with hardly any clothes on and ribs protruding out of her sunken belly.

Now in Vila, the infant was being taken to her father’s house, but Mrs Joel was adamant.

“That same night I couldn’t sleep. I was wide awake and listening to hear crying and wailing over a dead body,” she said. She never thought her granddaughter would survive.

With loss of hope, she forced her daughter, the child’s mother, to take her baby to hospital or she might die. Upon seeing the child’s condition, however, Evelyn was reluctant as the nurses might growl at her, though she was a teenager herself.

“I cradled the lifeless body in my arms and rushed her to hospital. The nurse gave medication and prescriptions but I still had doubts. So I turned my attention to spiritual guidance,” said Mrs Joel.

Stephanie is the second child of Evelyn Joel from Ambrym and and her former spouse Timothy Kalo from Tongoa. They had a rocky relationship, fought almost every day and ended up leaving two beautiful kids, Jenery and Stephanie, to their maternal grandmother to look after them for the rest of their lives.

In 2008, having been through a lot of hardships and ups and downs, Evelyn and Timo decided to pursue jobs to sustain their little family since they were both jobless at that time. Hence, their youngest child was sent home while the eldest stayed in Vila.

“Even though the couple had children of their own, they still depended on me for almost everything. I fed them every day until such time when I felt I’ve had enough that I encouraged them to be independent, to look for jobs.”

According to Mrs Joel, she recalled that was the time when things started to change and everything fell apart.

Evelyn decided to join the RSE scheme recruitment and was accepted. “ I thought she was doing the right thing for herself and my grandchildren, “ Mrs Joel murmured sadly.

She came back after a seven-month period in New Zealand and two weeks later she went to Takara, East Efate to live with a new guy she met while staying in New Zealand and left Timo and the kids for good. Little did they know that she was pregnant with another baby, obviously not Timo’s.

Lilon Joel, now 65, has been living with the children eversince. She is jobless however, and must find all means possible to pay for school fees and bus fares every day. Jenery started Grade 1 at Seaside Community School back in 2010, which means a hundred Vatu for fares and another hundred Vatu for lunch every day since then.

During the early years, Mrs Joel depended mainly on money she earned everyday from kava sales. Mr Joel travelled to and from their home island occasionally and doesn’t think much of the children, and since before last year he’s been living in Ambrym. However, she decided to stop selling kava in 2014 , after she heard news that there would be taxes imposed on kava bar owners. It was hard.

Jenery is now a young man of 11 years of age with A grades and Stephanie is 9 years old and a very bright student with A+ grades.

“I am very fortunate to have my eldest son, James, standing by my side always. He volunteered to settle both the children’s outstanding fees plus pay off their current year annual fees. Otherwise, I don’t how I will be able to fend for all of us,” she commented.

Mrs Joel thought of ways to keep the family affairs intact by applying and joining few group loan schemes such as Agriculture Bank, VANWODS and National Bank. She also occasionally did ’20 vatu’ sales.

Her grandson is now in grade 6 and just sat his final year exams while her granddaughter is in grade 3 and still maintaining her A+ grades.

She mentioned that at times the children complained because of food or stuff they did not agree on but it is what they could afford and that’s it. The old woman doesn’t know what the future will bring but ‘hopes only for the best for her two precious grandchildren, because only God knows’.

That leaves the grandmother to face the struggles of a mother once more, paying for household needs, food, water and rent.

“The parents don’t put food on the table or buy new school bags for the children. They seem to have forgotten all about them,” she said.

“It is hard being a grandmother and mother at the same time. You would also have to think of the future as I am now.

“I am uncertain of the near future. Will Jenery ever going to complete his studies and attend university? Will Stephanie ever going to find a good job in the future to look after her children, since town life is very complicated nowadays. I just don’t know,” concluded the caring old woman.

AS she held the tiny malnourished baby in her arms, tears flowed down her cheeks. She could think of nothing else but the cold embrace of death upon the tiny, naked body of her granddaughter, Stephanie.

Lilon Joel from Ambrym, then 57, was filled with anguish and despair. Her granddaughter was being sent to Tongoa to live with her aunt and paternal grandmother, at only the tender age of three months. Now she was returned, at a year old with hardly any clothes on and ribs protruding out of her sunken belly.

Now in Vila, the infant was being taken to her father’s house, but Mrs Joel was adamant.

“That same night I couldn’t sleep. I was wide awake and listening to hear crying and wailing over a dead body,” she said. She never thought her granddaughter would survive.

With loss of hope, she forced her daughter, the child’s mother, to take her baby to hospital or she might die. Upon seeing the child’s condition, however, Evelyn was reluctant as the nurses might growl at her, though she was a teenager herself.

“I cradled the lifeless body in my arms and rushed her to hospital. The nurse gave medication and prescriptions but I still had doubts. So I turned my attention to spiritual guidance,” said Mrs Joel.

Stephanie is the second child of Evelyn Joel from Ambrym and and her former spouse Timothy Kalo from Tongoa. They had a rocky relationship, fought almost every day and ended up leaving two beautiful kids, Jenery and Stephanie, to their maternal grandmother to look after them for the rest of their lives.

In 2008, having been through a lot of hardships and ups and downs, Evelyn and Timo decided to pursue jobs to sustain their little family since they were both jobless at that time. Hence, their youngest child was sent home while the eldest stayed in Vila.

“Even though the couple had children of their own, they still depended on me for almost everything. I fed them every day until such time when I felt I’ve had enough that I encouraged them to be independent, to look for jobs.”

According to Mrs Joel, she recalled that was the time when things started to change and everything fell apart.

Evelyn decided to join the RSE scheme recruitment and was accepted. “ I thought she was doing the right thing for herself and my grandchildren, “ Mrs Joel murmured sadly.

She came back after a seven-month period in New Zealand and two weeks later she went to Takara, East Efate to live with a new guy she met while staying in New Zealand and left Timo and the kids for good. Little did they know that she was pregnant with another baby, obviously not Timo’s.

Lilon Joel, now 65, has been living with the children ever since. She is jobless however, and must find all means possible to pay for school fees and bus fares every day. Jenery started Grade 1 at Seaside Community School back in 2010, which means a hundred Vatu for fares and another hundred Vatu for lunch every day since then.

During the early years, Mrs Joel depended mainly on money she earned everyday from kava sales. Mr Joel travelled to and from their home island occasionally and doesn’t think much of the children, and since before last year he’s been living in Ambrym. However, she decided to stop selling kava in 2014 , after she heard news that there would be taxes imposed on kava bar owners. It was hard.

Jenery is now a young man of 11 years of age with A grades and Stephanie is 9 years old and a very bright student with A+ grades.

“I am very fortunate to have my eldest son, James, standing by my side always. He volunteered to settle both the children’s outstanding fees plus pay off their current year annual fees. Otherwise, I don’t how I will be able to fend for all of us,” she commented.

Mrs Joel thought of ways to keep the family affairs intact by applying and joining few group loan schemes such as Agriculture Bank, VANWODS and National Bank. She also occasionally did ’20 vatu’ sales.

Her grandson is now in grade 6 and just sat his final year exams while her granddaughter is in grade 3 and still maintaining her A+ grades.

She mentioned that at times the children complained because of food or stuff they did not agree on but it is what they could afford and that’s it. The old woman doesn’t know what the future will bring but ‘hopes only for the best for her two precious grandchildren, because only God knows’.

That leaves the grandmother to face the struggles of a mother once more, paying for household needs, food, water and rent.

“The parents don’t put food on the table or buy new school bags for the children. They seem to have forgotten all about them,” she said.

“It is hard being a grandmother and mother at the same time. You would also have to think of the future as I am now.

“I am uncertain of the near future. Will Jenery ever going to complete his studies and attend university? Will Stephanie ever going to find a good job in the future to look after her children, since town life is very complicated nowadays. I just don’t know,” concluded the caring old woman.

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