‘ I am the only one who can work and take care of six of us.’
The harsh realities of quarantine have put Princess Konneh to the test.
When the COVID-19 pandemic turned a week-long visit from family into a months-long exercise in cohabitation, Princess found herself conflicted.
On the one hand, she gained plenty of quality time with her sister from Liberia. They both have two young children about the same age, which provided much opportunity to bond.
But her sister also came to Michigan as an overseas visitor, leaving her unable to secure a temporary job.
That made Princess the sole provider for two families during the state’s stay-at-home order.
“I am the only one who can work and take care of six of us,” Princess said. “So it has been tough.”
Complicating matters, Princess fell ill just as the pandemic hit. She took two weeks off her job at a gas station, but then quickly found herself furloughed.
“You stop working, but you still don’t stop paying your bills,” she said.
With schools and daycares closed because of the pandemic, her children were home 24/7. Like tens of thousands of others in Kent County, Princess had depended on these institutions to provide daily meals for her children.
For many, the certainty of those meals ended virtually overnight.
“It’s not like when they leave in the morning and then are back 4 to 5 o’clock,” Princess said. “There’s more going on than ever before.”
Days of unemployment stretched into weeks.
“I just thought it was going to be for a few days,” Princess said. “Like, ‘Oh man, things are going to go back to normal. We will go back to work.’ But it wasn’t like that.”
Money and food quickly became scarce.
“I just hope and pray that it is all over and things can get back to normal and the kids can get back to school,” Princess said.
One afternoon, hope arrived in the form of an email.
Princess, a member of the Kentwood Community Church, received word about a free food distribution each week at the Woodfield Community Center.
“They had meals for the kids,” Princess said.
Kids’ Food Basket runs the program. Each Thursday, Princess picks up a Sack Supper that’ll last all week long—an immense help in providing daily nutrition to the four children in her home.
“I don’t have to worry about getting food for the kids,” she said. “We always have enough from there. Sometimes we get more than what we expected.”
What’s more, it’s high-quality food.
That’s a leading mission of Kids’ Food Basket: nourish children to reach their full potential. This means healthy, nutritious food in their bellies all week long.
“For me personally, I love eating healthy,” Princess said. “So the first day we go get Kids’ Food Basket, we saw bananas and other healthy food in the bag. Lots of things for the kids.”
No candy, no sweets—just good-for-you food.
“Which helps them a lot for the whole week,” Princess said.
It’s a small lifeline in the form of a paper bag.
That’s what the Kids’ Food Basket meals have become to countless families in this time of crisis. Life was hard for many families long before a global pandemic hit. It’s even harder now.
“If I didn’t have those meals it would be horrible, because then you have to take off from rent and your other bills in order to get food for you kids,” Princess said.
Kids’ Food Basket has been on the front line of the pandemic since day one.
“I always like to be grateful for what is happening and for what the community is doing, what they are doing they are doing extremely well,” Princess said. “People are risking their lives to give food, so that is one big thing that I will always say thank you for.”
Princess said she aims to keep a positive mindset, despite the challenges.
“Everything that happens to you, you either learn from it or you don’t—and if you learn good things from it, that is the best for you and you can put that thing in the world,” she said.
She recently landed a new job that has returned a steady income to her family.
But she’ll never forget that in her toughest moments, she found a much-needed buoy in Kids’ Food Basket.
“I am grateful for the people who are putting their money into this, the people who are trying to help the kids and families,” she said. “That is just really awesome. And I thank God for them.”
I just hope and pray that it is all over and things can get back to normal and the kids can get back to school.