I want the world to be better for kids. Don’t you?

It’s hard for me to imagine all that’s lost for kids thanks to the coronavirus since I don’t have children. Regular in-person classes, after-school activities, birthday parties.

Luckily, we live in an area of the Philippines considered low risk for COVID-19. We are in Malay Municipality, in Aklan Province, on Panay Island.

As of this writing, there is only one known case in this province, but there are increasing numbers on the island. (Official government source is here.)

With Manila’s current re-lockdown, Aklan posted its rules on who can enter the province. The rules are strict. Because the tourist destination Boracay Island is part of Aklan, the government is going to great lengths to keep COVID-19 out.

So here we are.

And here we live.

I want the world to be better for kids. Don’t you?

In an effort to make the world a little brighter wherever we happen to be, I’ve been spending some time with kids from the next neighborhood (or barangay) over from our apartment rental in Motag.

Why these kids? Well, most of them know how to speak English. Some are fluent, some only know a few words. But at least we can communicate.

I met the Balusbos kids while walking the beach for exercise and collecting shells. One day, a little girl asked me for money, to which I asked her what would I get in return?

That puzzled her at first, but soon enough, she and the rest of the kids were all collecting shells to ‘sell’ to me. We negotiated ‘deals’ where I would buy their shells — only ones I needed, mind you — for my art projects.

Sometimes, the children didn’t want any money at all – they’d give me the shells as gifts. Friendships were formed.

One day after playing and walking on the beach, one child told me she was hungry and thirsty. So we all went to the store owned by a family I’d previously met in the village. I bought some snacks for the kids in the group that day.

I hatched an idea with the help of that kind family. We would have a small gathering with the kids each Friday. I’d do some activities with them, and play some games with prizes, and then we would all have some snacks or a meal prepared by Aira.

Aira is a great cook. Belen helps with the kids, and so does her brother, and my friend Wilson – the first person I met in the family who extended me great kindness after I was let out of quarantine. These are some of the kindest Filipinos you could hope to meet.

The family’s home has the perfect outdoor area with a table and long benches to fit the kids. I am grateful to be invited into their home.

These kids lift my spirits

So this is how I’ve been spending Friday afternoons for the last month. Being with these children is such a joy for me. I think I look forward to Fridays more than they do.

Some of the children’s families are seriously impacted by the tourism drop to the region. With so much bad news, and the world so upside down, their smiles lift my spirits. Kids are goofy, playful, searingly honest. I hope I lift them up, too.

This week: a birthday! Rean turned 7 years old. And so that called for a birthday cake. She came to the party in a beautiful dress, with her hair styled perfectly. When she made a wish, it took several seconds, as if she was wishing for something with every ounce of her small might.

Rean, I hope whatever you wished for comes true for you today, tomorrow, and always.

And I wish that for all of these kids. Don’t you?

Thanks for reading, “I want the world to be better for kids. Don’t you?”

What to read next:

Ellen posts on Instagram. See pictures of the beautiful Philippines – and other places around the world – here.

I want the world to be better for kids. Don’t you?

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