My name is Chaida Bango Bango, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently studying public policy with a minor in professional writing. I chose this path for a major because I grew up in foster care in Montgomery County where I went to multiple foster homes. I left my abusive mother never knowing that was only the beginning of my great adversity in my young childhood. I left my foster homes to attend college never looking back. I chose public policy because I was interested in changing policies and laws for me as well as many disenfranchised and underdeveloped communities across very rich America.
On March 12, it was a strange day on campus. At this time, the coronavirus was just approaching our borders. From classes being canceled and starting spring break earlier than planned, everything I knew then was floating above me in the air. I felt unstable and unbalanced. During spring break for state colleges in Maryland, the University of Maryland shared that it was moving to online classes temporarily.
The fear of catching the coronavirus was just the tipping point of this frantic iceberg. I immersed myself in the media for hours a day just looking up statistics, death tolls, number of confirmed cases and in what countries. Something that was happening at large globally was affecting my life so greatly, just sitting at home, that clued me in. I hated myself for constantly researching because it did not help me come to a calm state. During this time, I was still living in my dorm, alone on the university campus.
I do not have a home besides the residence halls. Before leaving for college, nearby families had decided to not open their doors for me because of circumstances between me and my mother. My family is not willing to open their homes to me at this time. Thankfully, the university is so understanding of my situation that they opened an emergency shelter for me on campus. This means I am permitted to stay on campus for the rest of the semester. The downside of this situation is that it is incredibly lonely because the campus is now a ghost town. It makes me cry sometimes because the reality hits me knowing that there is no other home for me. I am relying on social services, charity organizations, and reaching out to every hand that is out there. For me, I feel extremely comforted and yet anxious about the near future because I do not know what is going to unfold for me.
Since the pandemic has created my new normal, I can only focus on my studies and other obligations. In the first days of being in quarantine and practicing self-isolation, I felt very depressed just from the surrounding circumstances. Family is always checking in on me, but I cannot even bother due to the situation. I feel that I am even in a more vulnerable state because my mental health is regressing due to the lack of access to my medication. It is difficult as a result of trying to reach my prescriber’s office and pharmacy at once. I have been down spiraling until I called a friend as well as reached the Crisis Text Line.
As of now, I feel much uplifted and grounded in how I make my decisions moving forward into the future. By studying public policy, it has been really interesting to analyze the media corresponding to this virus. I need to receive a well-rounded take on this pandemic, and I think everyone should do the same. I think more so now we need to listen to the doctors rather than the politicians. Politicians have agendas. Doctors have a vow to protect the well-being of the general population who seek their help.
Overall, I have been taught to never wait for rescue. This pandemic is disastrous, and so have other things in my life. When adversity strikes, you cannot wait for things to come crashing down to respond. That is something this administration failed to do. President Donald Trump waited until the virus was impacting numerous lives and the economy to respond. In the aftermath, businesses are shutting down, people are going unemployed, children going hungry, some left untreated and unattended by the doctors, and many left unheard. One thing that I will take from this is that I will never put my health and well-being on the back burner. That is why I chose to study public policy, because policies need to change drastically in this country, especially policies involving health care. I feel that it is important to change policies to only benefit those who are disenfranchised like those in foster care. The policies today are always benefiting the wealthy and the most powerful. We need more policies to help disenfranchised communities because they are contributing to the wealthy population extraordinarily. Today, I am a foster youth. Tomorrow, I am leading change.
Chaida Bango Bango, 20, is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park. She grew up in the foster care system in Montgomery County, Maryland, since age 11. She went to countless foster homes and was left unheard from the system. Today, she studies public policy with a minor in professional writing. As a transitional foster youth, Bango Bango serves as an active member of the Fostering Terp Success organization by advocating for disenfranchised students on campus. She advocates for the university’s administration to bring adequate resources and aid to disenfranchised students. Besides Fostering Terp Success, she is also proud to be a part of Ignite UMD helping spread female political empowerment to women of all majors.