Despite the limitations brought by the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), nothing can stop a health worker from Baco, Marinduque in fulfilling her duties and responding to calls for help in her community.

Arlyn Mandia, or “ate Arlyn” to her friends, 53, has been working as a barangay health worker (BHW) in Agot, Baco, Marinduque for more than 10 years already. As a BHW, she provides a helping hand in all health-related activities in their barangay.

Her duty as a BHW includes assistance during community-based interventions such as immunization activities for children and birthing services. She also acts as a health educator within their community where she promotes family planning, maternal and child health, and proper nutrition.

Ate Arlyn is always willing to help her community, especially her fellow Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries. She has capacitated herself by attending basic training programs so she may provide primary care services if the situation calls. Moreover, since their barangay health center also lacks financial capacity, ate Arlyn makes it possible through her networks from different medical institutions and organizations.

One of the most notable acts done by ate Arlyn as a BHW was when she helped the mother of her fellow beneficiary in 2017 who happened to have cancer. Through her support, they were able to seek financial and medical assistance from different institutions and organizations. This has led to the eventual healing of the mother of her fellow beneficiary.

Cultivating kindness through sharing

Every month, ate Arlyn receives a P1,800 allowance as a BHW. She provides for her eight children. Her salary must also suffice for the medication of her husband Leodegario who survived a stroke in 2018. Aside from working as a barangay health worker, her family also gets its every day needs from the profit they earn from their 2,500-square meter backyard garden. If their harvests are prosperous, she takes home P500 per day from selling her vegetables.

When the pandemic came, her job as a BHW became more challenging. “Takot ang maraming tao. Takot silang mag-punta sa ospital. Nahirapan ako na hikayatin silang magpa-check up. Lalong-lalo na ‘yung mga tatlong araw na ang lagnat”, she said when asked about how the pandemic affected her duty as a health worker.

Ate Arlyn also observed how the community quarantine has impacted the way people in their barangay lives. Many lost their jobs. She also got worried about the health and nutrition of their community, especially the children. Thus without any second thoughts, her family shared their yields to the community.

“Wala naman po kaming pera na maibibigay, ‘yung bigas nalang po namin ang ibinigay namin saka gulay,” ate Arlyn said. Since the lockdown started, every harvest, she always makes sure that she has enough vegetables ready for sharing with her community. “Sa bawat limang tali po ng gulay, dalawa po ‘dun itinatabi ko na.”

Inspiring others to help

“Hirap din kami sa buhay. Hindi kami makakapag-ambag ng pera pero yung oras at konting pagtulong na ilalaan mo, sa tingin ko, malaking bagay na ‘yun”, expressed by Ate Arlyn when asked about why she continuously helps her community despite the fact that they also need assistance.

Ate Arlyn’s two children have also embraced the hospitality of their mother. With the help of Leodelyn, 25 years old, and Gaylyn, 23 years old, and learning from the 4Ps Family Development Sessions (FDS), their family was able to share with their community the vegetables from their garden. This includes leafy vegetables and other crops such as mustard, lettuce, ampalaya, string beans, eggplant, upo, squash, and corn.

The mother of eight believes that kindness is innate to everyone and empowerment must start within us.

“Tayo kasi ay magkakatuwang. Ako nga, kahit babae ako, kaya ko,” she said.

Through her compassion and determination, she has proved that helping has no face — regardless of your gender, status in life, ethnicity, and race.

Ate Arlyn also mentioned her intention to voluntarily exit from the program once one of her children gets a permanent job. She said that another family must take their place in the program. She believes that once you help a person, he/she will be inspired to help other people too until such time it becomes a cycle of helping.

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