Thanda started COVID-19 response on 16 March by speed-educating children on hygiene precautions before the schools were shutdown. We then proceeded to create prevention and awareness posters, which we put all around the community. We built 15 tippy-taps which we placed at busy locations such as the clinic and spaza shops where there is no running water. We continue to service these taps daily with soap and water. We then educated ECD and After-School staff as best we could before sending them home on annual leave during the lockdown. We continue to communicate with guardians of the children via whatsapp or text, providing activity ideas and storybook audios we are making. We applied for an Essential Services Permit to allow our Organic Farming Team to continue to work to ensure that produce continues to be planted and reaped throughout the lockdown. With our Support Team (admin) working remotely, we decided to take 7 days to film and put together an Education Portal that would provide parents around the world with social-emotional resources to support their children during this time. Whilst it goes beyond the community we usually support, we felt it was something positive we could provide in this time of crisis. With the extension of the lockdown, we have committed to using Nivea funds ‘saved’ from not feeding children over the past few weeks to provide food parcels to 151 children in our ECD programmes. We have applied for additional funding to provide 600 food parcels for children in our After-School programmes as well. Our ability to continue programmes, especially After-School, in 2020 remains uncertain.
For us at Siyakwazi protecting the most vulnerable in our communities is critical. Likewise, it’s important that children with disabilities continue to be stimulated in their homes over the next 3 weeks. As of 18 March 2020, Siyakwazi suspended all services with children. We hosted a couple of awareness sessions with community members and parents regarding practising safe hygiene and supported implementing the tippy tap system to be introduced in the homes, as the majority of homes in rural communities do not have access to running water. It was emphasised that soap and water are key for good hygiene and to prevent spreading the virus! Therapy charts were finalised for children who have received therapy through our resource centre so far this year and were given to parents to continue supporting their children. Each Siyasiza is in bi-weekly contact with parents of children we support and is sending through a variety of learning activities that can be used in the homes. We also have a process for supporting parents should their child need access to the local clinic or hospital.
Brave Girl Update
South Africa began a 21 day lockdown Thursday, 26 March at midnight to protect the citizens of the country against COVID-19. For many girls, already at risk of dropping out due to their age and family pressures, the likelihood that they may not return to school, or will fall further behind if they do continue, is heightened. Some girls are living in homes that are not safe due to the risk of physical and sexual assault, with no way to escape or outlet to report these crimes if they occur.During the first week of lockdown, our BRAVE Senior Leaders communicated with each girl and her family to check in with her and find out what she needed and how she is coping. Veronica Adams, our Community Outreach Mentor also delivered 60 BRAVE Care Packages. We will continue to communicate regularly with every girl, and provide weekly BRAVE Care Packages during the lockdown. Each week we will also collect the girls’ stories – in week one we asked girls to tell us how the lockdown is impacting them and their families.
Kgololo Academy closed its doors 3 days before the mandated government lockdown as we have several students and staff displaying flu-like symptoms. To prepare our scholars for the lockdown, we provided students with a break packet to last them for 1 month. Earlier this week we sent a survey out to all Kgololo Academy families requesting them to respond to how they have been impacted by COVID-19. Thus far about 10% of our parents have been retrenched from their jobs. Currently, we are working with our leadership team in order to determine the best method for supporting families who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. We are planning to provide food parcels for families should the lockdown extend past 21 days.
At the beginning of lockdown in South Africa I spoke to Helen about supporting the community we are serving at this hard time. We were looking at the angle of providing food to the families of children enrolled at Siyabonga. All the employees at Siyabonga are staying in the community served by Siyabonga. I created a group and we have been talking as a Team on how to assist mostly the children. Each employee will identify families at risk and then report to the group as well as their need. During our discussions it came out that the most things that they need is water and soap to wash hands. Distributing soap we thought would be best to children’s families as the issue of washing hands with soap is stressed in managing hygiene at this time of coronavirus infection.
True North Update
On the 24th March 2020, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown to combat the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, True North staff that are able to work remotely from home have been doing so. We are in regular communication with three groups of important stakeholders: 1) pre-school principals via a COVID-19 WhatsApp group, 2) parents through daily educational activities for children and 3) the Department of Social Development to keep them informed on the situation on the ground. We are focusing our response efforts on two pressing challenges. The first is that many parents are now unable to pay school fees. While principals are encouraging payment where possible, we project a shortfall in salaries for 105 staff members (approximately R115 000 per month). We hope to raise funds to cover 50% of this for March and April. The second challenge is that 1506 children were previously dependent on their schools for two meals a day. Some children may not get this at home so we will partner with the schools and the Lunchbox Fund to distribute monthly relief feeding boxes at R340 per box to families in need.