US & Canada

Coronavirus lockdown: I got a life-changing opportunity

Ana's siblings Image copyright Ana Carmona

When six people share a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, lockdown is especially hard. But some big news has given one teenager hope.

Hello everyone, my name is Ana Carmona. I am 18 years old, and I live in the Bronx.

2 April: I live with my parents, my little brother Bernie, 12, my little sister Alexandra, 16, and my older sister who is 22. Both of my parents and my older sister are undocumented.

My sisters and I all share one bedroom, and my brother and parents sleep in the living room, plus there's a kitchen. My brother says my bed is his favourite, so he's always hanging out with us!

Ana's father watches news with her brother Image copyright Ana Carmona

10 April: Both my father and Bernie like to watch the news in Spanish to stay informed. Here, they are watching a report about two priests in the Brooklyn diocese who have died from coronavirus.

Regardless of age, gender, status, or the colour of your skin, this virus does not discriminate. But underprivileged communities like mine do not get the resources they need to prevent Covid-19 from taking over neighbourhoods.

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Watch Ana's video diary

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Media caption I think that the universe knows what it has in store for me

We asked three young Americans to chronicle their very different experiences of the pandemic. Read about Maddie below, a 22-year-old student living in Ohio, and we'll also hear from Miguel, 21, who lives in San Francisco.

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11 April: Quarantine has taken a toll on people including myself. Today I got to go grocery shopping and to feel a little better, I grabbed the one product of makeup I haven't touched once since being quarantined. Putting on makeup made me feel a sense of fulfilment and a sense of home.

Ana puts on makeup Image copyright Ana Carmona

My older sister was the only one working in the household prior to us being quarantined. Now that she is no longer working due to the virus, there is no money coming in. That makes it very stressful for my family, because we don't know when we're going to have our next meal, or we don't know what's going to happen when we have to pay certain bills, such as rent, electricity, things like that.

Grocery shopping during a pandemic Image copyright Ana Carmona

My family stocks up on food for the weeks to come. The supermarket near our home usually has overpriced items so we take advantage of going to Food Bazaar where food items are less expensive. We stood in line for an hour and when we finally got in, we had to hurry because others had to shop as well. Behind us, a father takes off his coat and gives it to his baby to guard against the chilly weather.

Ambulance outside Ana's apartment Image copyright Ana Carmona

It's hard to concentrate on my schoolwork because there's ambulances outside, and we usually hear those very often, especially at night. Before the virus, I was finishing up my senior year in high school and applying to colleges.

I've been trying to make my decision whether I should go to Cornell University (an Ivy League school) or Binghamton University. Cost is a big factor. It's very hard to speak to my parents about the college process. They don't understand it because they never went to college.

At the laundromat Image copyright Ana Carmona

16 April: My mother, older sister and I finally decided to go to the laundromat which is about five minutes away from our building. We have not done laundry for a whole month because of Covid-19. We all went together to get the job done faster to avoid being out for long. What was once a busy and crowded laundromat, was now nearly empty.

Empty streets in the Bronx Image copyright Ana Carmona

For the seven years since I've lived in this neighbourhood, locals play music and board games, and kids ride their bicycles and scooters in the springtime. Quarantine has caused emptiness in a place that used to be filled with so much music, laughter and joy.

17 April: I heard back from Cornell at 2am in the morning, and I was not even awake fully when I read the letter. So I woke up my older sister and was like 'Hey can you please read this award letter for me?'

Ana's sister Mariana Image copyright Ana Carmona

She said "Oh my god you got a full ride!" And I was like, 'Oh my god, you're kidding?' My little sister heard too, because we all share a room.

Then the next morning I woke up and was going to tell my mom and my dad. And then out of nowhere my mom just surprised me. "Congratulations! Your little sister told me."

My parents told me they were really proud of me and they knew I was going to get it and I deserve it.

Ana's mom cuts her brother Bernie's hair Image copyright Ana Carmona

18 April: My mother is cutting Bernie's hair because she is unable to take him to the barbershop due to all businesses being closed. The last time he got his hair cut was 18 February. My mother usually takes him to a specific barbershop so he felt uncomfortable doing it at home and kept moving the entire time.

Ana's mom putting away groceries Image copyright Ana Carmona

The Bronx Documentary Center, where I have been learning photography, came this morning to leave some food and cleaning supplies. My friends' parents have also helped.

My mother was filled with so much happiness, and said those who provide and help us in times of need are also family. It just really made me happy to see her and my family happy, because I know we're all struggling.

Ana with her parents accepts Cornell Image copyright Ana Carmona

29 April: I just committed to Cornell. Wow. I literally bawled my eyes out. My family was there, and I did it through Google Hangouts with my friends.

It's been a very eventful day. And I had a whole breakdown before I committed, because I don't really know what I want. I had a talk with my counsellor, who just told me wherever it is that I go, I'm going to make it.

I'm not only doing this for myself, I'm doing this for my parents and for a lot of people. And it's obviously a very emotional time, because we don't know where we're going from this pandemic.

But I think that the universe knows what it has in store for me, you know?

Produced by Hannah Long-Higgins and Robin Levinson-King

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