Four-Wheeled Life on the Street
The story of Crisanto Baquero, 66, a street dweller in Cebu City
Street dwellers around the world is one of the most vulnerable group in light of the global pandemic. Strict advisories by the government authorities were implemented, mandating its citizens to stay safe in their own homes. But what about those with no roof over their heads, how can they protect themselves from the virus?
Tatay Crisanto, 66, is one of the many street dwellers who were brought to the sports complex of Brgy. San Roque when the city implemented the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) guidelines last March 2020.
“Naa mi balay sa una, pero biktima pud mi ug sunog. Pero sukad 2006, ako nalang usa. Didto ko mag-adtuan sa Plaza Independencia. Karun, makisilong nalang ko sa mga building diri duol. Magbutang ug tabon, labi nang mag-ulan.” he shares.
As he goes about his day-to-day activities, Tatay Crisanto cannot leave his post without this item he considers a lifeline – his wheelchair. Back in 2010, he developed polio, disabling him to walk. He recalls having to move from one homeless shelter to another, he added that there were many occasions that he would sleep on the pavement with other homeless people because he could not find an open building or a welcoming guard.
“11 na kabuok ka wheelchair akong nagamit sukad. Permi man gud ko magub-an sa sige nakog lakaw-lakaw. Kung huna-hunaon, delikado kaayo para nako, na senior citizen ug naka wheelchair ang magsigeg lakaw-lakaw sa dalan – mag-amping nalang gyud akong buhaton.”
His wheelchair served as his feet that took him to places, served as his comfort, converting it into a bed at night. Over time, his wheelchair started to wear out.
Niceforo Iroy, one of the barangay councilors of San Roque, noticed Tatay Crisanto struggling to move around on his defective wheelchair when he stayed in the gym over the quarantine.
RAFI, together with the Augustinian Relief Services (ARS) of Sto. Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation Inc. activated the intervention to extend assistance by providing food, hygiene kits, and sleeping mats to the street dwellers situated in the Brgy. San Roque Gymnasium, where Niceforo met Tatay Crisanto.
He reached out to RAFI, in the hopes that Tatay Crisanto’s wheelchair will be replaced. “I have known RAFI for a few years now and knowing its vision to help the community and those in need, I was confident that they won’t hesitate to help Tatay Crisanto.”
Through Avila Foundation, a long-time partner of RAFI, Tatay Crisanto was provided with a new and sturdy wheelchair that gave him the best comfort. The Avila Foundation continues to help relieve the suffering individuals especially the PWD; street dwellers who were not able to stay in temporary shelters are linked with other foundations for additional support.
“Providing Tatay Crisanto with his wheelchair is just one of the many programs we have. We are grateful for our partnership with RAFI – for helping us maintain our programs that continuously support persons with disability (PWD), pertaining to their mobility, and dignity. Thank you RAFI for supporting the causes and advocacies of our foundation.” shares Adela Kono.
Tatay Crisanto despite living on the streets remain to instill a hopeful perspective in life, thanks to the people who have continuously been helping street dwellers like him. He shares, “Malipayon gihapon ko. Ang Ginoo, makahibaw gyod sya sakong kalisod, mao na dili ko mahadlok. Hatagan ko niyag blessing pinaagi sa mga taw ug organisasyon na mutabang gyud sa mga street dwellers pareha nako.”
Now with his new wheelchair, Tatay Crisanto extends his gratitude to the organizations who have helped him: “Nakahatag gyud ni ug dakong tabang kanako kay sumpay ni sa akong kinabuhi ang akong wheelchair. Sa inyong pagpakabana na matabangan ang mga pareha nako daghang salamat RAFI ug Avila Foundation and more power!”
As we continue to battle through this deadly virus, RAFI continues to remain steadfast and committed to its response to helping the most vulnerable populations especially the ultra-poor and the homeless through the interventions activated by its Humanitarian Disaster Preparedness and Response (HDPR) team, and the COVID-19 Donation Hub.