Child poverty: Jason (10) knows that mom sometimes stole something

Child poverty is becoming more and more visible due to rising energy and food prices and the consequences of the corona crisis. Helmond municipality will do something about that, for example by offering free breakfast at school. Jason is 10 years old and lives in poverty. Jason and his mother regularly visit BeBizzy, a charity in Helmond. There, people can catch their breath in a cozy living room and look for something in the shop. In that silence we speak to them. Jason: “If there’s more money, I get goosebumps.”

Anjeska, Jason’s mother, was sent away by her mother at the age of 8 to steal food. She tied a backpack to her stomach. Picked up his go-kart, ‘so I could take more with me’ and drove to the farmers in the area. “Whatever the farmer had, I loaded my backpack. I was so afraid that the farmer would find out. My mother thought that other things were more important than that we should eat and drink.”

“I just didn’t want to be poor anymore, but it didn’t work out.”

Anjeska has been traumatized by her childhood. “Most girls want to be a princess or a lawyer. I just didn’t want to be poor anymore, but I couldn’t”.

Anjeska is illiterate. She will hardly be able to read this article. She lives on benefits and has four children. A fifth child, who is not hers, lives with her. “It’s my bonus child,” she laughs.

Everything was going well with Anjeska until one of her children became seriously ill. The medical expenses, transport costs to hospitals and overnight stays proved to be too much for the family. Poverty found its way back to the next generation.

Anjeska and 10-year-old Jason talk frankly about their situation. “We don’t have time for shame, we survive,” says Anjeska. Child poverty is often still a hidden problem. Dianne Bruno of BeBizzy: “A lot of kids don’t know they’re living in poverty, they often think it’s normal,” she says. “And parents try to keep it a secret.”

But Jason isn’t from yesterday and knows exactly what’s going on.

Jason: “I wanted a water gun from the monkey shop.”
Anjeska: “We call it the monkey shop, because there is a monkey on the front. I can neither read nor write well. It’s Intertoys, I think.”
Jason: “Mom said no, mom always says no.”
Anjeska: “I can’t pull myself out of poverty, because I can’t do much. I used to take care of my mother at home.”
Jason: “I don’t know how I’ll feel if I don’t get anything, it just stinks.”

Anjeska has to get by on 120 euros a week. “So I really have to do everything I can, and because of the medical costs for one of the kids, it’s difficult.” Anjeska often doesn’t make ends meet. When the week is over, her fridge is empty.

Anjeska: “We call them residual days.”
Jason: “We always have something to eat, you know.”
Anjeska: “I go to the bins at the back of the supermarket, if you know what I mean.”
Jason: “What?”
Anjeska: “It’s still good and I’ll put it in a bag, sorry.”
Jason: “I didn’t know that at all!”
Anjeska, crying with trembling hands: “I think I confessed something by accident.”
Jason: “It’s not bad at all, Mom.”
Anjeska: “Do you know that I also got your mountain bike from there?”
Jason: “Really?”
Anjeska: “It was like new and was simply in a container. I then opened my leg, I had to have it.”

Sometimes there is more money. Anjeska gets something from others and sells it on. “I got meat, prepared it and sold it again. Then I had more money and I could buy a birthday present for Jason to go to a party. We do strange things to make money.”

“I had nothing left. I was so scared.”

For example, Anjeska had to steal again. The children stayed home with instructions to call their uncle if she did not return from the grocery store. “I had nothing left at all. I didn’t even have a babysitter. I was so scared. What if I get arrested? Who’s going to take care of my kids?” Jason knows what has happened when Anjeska returns with bags full, “We had a lot of food back then.”

Eating is already hard, cool clothes even harder. This has caused Jason a lot of trouble. He was often bullied. He now attends another school. It is better there and he has many friends.

Jason: “I used to wear socks with stars on them. That’s for sissies.”
Anjeska: “It bothers him, you know. This topic remains heavy.”
Jason: “I got beat up by 5 guys.”
Anjeska: “He’s still afraid of one of them.”
Jason: “They tripped me too. Because I’m wearing different clothes and a very old phone. The shirt I’m wearing now is from Nike, so that’s good. But the pants I’m wearing now are not good.”

Jason doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but the police academy seems to suit him.

Anjeska: “Jason, I can’t afford that. That’s what I’m worried about, isn’t it? My children’s education. Can they get it? Have you ever seen how expensive books are? My God.”

Anjeska has no time to talk anymore. Her sick son needs his medicine. “It’s very accurate, you know.” Jason can quickly find something in the store at BeBizzy. Moments later, he walks out of the store beaming with a pet monkey.

Jason and Anjeska’s names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Leave a Comment