Dubai: Last month, seven-year old Filipino boy Gabriel Mykael Antonino lost his mother, Myrna, to a tragic road accident. Also around the time, his father, Gerald, was placed on forced leave.
The double whammy left the father and son struggling not only with the tragic loss but they were also in a financial quandary. Help has been extended by Stop and Help, a grassroots initiative on social media, but mounting bills, including unpaid rent and school fees, have compounded their situation.
Gerald told Gulf News he has decided to take his son back home to the Philippines to start life anew. He has also taken to social media to seek suuport for their immediate repatriation.
Another father in Dubai made a plea online. Proudly carrying his twin boys, Haseeb and Hady, Harold started on a cheerful note saying he’s excited to celebrate his first Father’s Day on Sunday.
But he is a worried man. His babies were born premature three months ago and were placed in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). As hospital bills piled up, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the country; and Harold and his wife, Hanna, lost their jobs.
Hanna’s passport was left at the hospital as a guarantee for their unpaid bills. Stop and Help also reached out to the couple and generous individuals sent baby clothes, infant formula and other newborn items. But the parents are still jobless; hospital bills have not yet been paid and more help is needed to raise the twins.
There’s a third dad too who is seeking help this coming Father’s Day. Due to the COVID-19 situation, Chris and his wife, Lory, were put on unpaid leave since March.
The couple, who already have an 18-month old daughter named Madison, are both healthy. But the biggest concern is how to finance Lory’s C-section delivery for their second daughter next month.
Chris said their health insurance does not cover C-section delivery. The couple also have to buy baby formula for their first baby and bills to pay.
Again, netizens pitched in via Stop and Help. “Receiving groceries from generous individuals means we can save more money to pay our hospital bills,” said Chris. “This Father’s Day (June 21), I urge everyone marking the day to reach out and support dads like me. Every little help you give means fathers like me can put food on the table for our families during these difficult times,” he added.
Make your daddy proud
Stop and Help founder Heather Harries, 52, said one way to mark Father’s Day is to spread kindness.
She explained Stop and Help is not charity group but a ‘kindness exchange’, where donors are paired with beneficiaries the group has vetted.
“Stop and Help was launched on March 22, at the onset of COVID-19 outbreak, with the objective of matching residents in need with people who could help. It started as a small Facebook page and has now grown to around 10,500 members,” Heather noted.
Meals, groceries and other material support were shared with struggling families. Those seeking help filled up an online form and donors signed in at an online ‘kindness registry‘.
Heather said: “We have hundreds of dads waiting to be matched with someone who can help them with basic family essentials for survival.”
“The problem is bigger than just food. Families who have lost their jobs have also lost access to medical insurance and we are supporting an increasing number of mums-to-be that now have nothing, not even insurance to deliver their babies in hospitals,” she noted.