Edmund Rice Mission responds to the COVID-19 pandemic in India and Oceania
The Sama-Badjao Women’s Livelihood and Community WASH project, Philippines
The Sama-Badjao Women’s Livelihood and Community WASH project in the Philippines faced difficulty in trying to adapt their project activities. During the months of April to June when their location was in a hard lockdown, there was no way that project activities could be carried out in alternative ways. In the context of the Sama-Badjao community, online or virtual sessions were not possible as many, if not all of them, are computer illiterate. Although some of them own a smart phone, there is no wifi connection in the area. Printing handouts instead of conducting the project activities was also seen as an unsuitable option since many of them are unable to read.
A decision was made to reallocate portions of the funded project activities to provide direct response to the devastating impact brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The project reallocated a portion of its funding to provide food; this distribution addressed the immediate needs of 105 Sama Badjao women and their families. This was coupled with initiatives on the prevention of COVID-19 spread and Psychological First Aid (PFA) activities to help ease the impact of the pandemic. This reallocation was seen as a supplementary assistance to the local government’s initiatives that provided a temporary relief to the already destitute condition of the Sama-Badjaos. A handwashing facility was also installed in the area to really encourage the community to practice proper handwashing as a way to prevent the spread of the virus.
Igleselda (pictured above on the far left) is the Sama-Badjao Women’s Association Secretary and one of the Barangay Health Workers in the area. She volunteered to help out during the food pack and hygiene kit distributions.
‘As a Barangay Health Worker, it is my duty to help in any way I can. The government told us to observe physical distancing without considering our situation; it is really hard to keep distant from one another when two or three families are living under one small roof.’ -Igleselda
COVID-19 has highlighted the inequality in society. It is not only a matter of public health concern, but of the long standing injustice that many people are experiencing particularly for minorities like the Sama-Badjaos.
At PRATYeK, the children’s advocacy project in India, all of the on-the-ground trainings and meetings in regards to the Children’s Parliaments shifted to an online platform. The lack of travel allowed the project to adjust its budget to deliver much needed essential items to their beneficiaries. Dry food rations along with basic hygiene kits, which included sanitary pads, soaps, masks and hand sanitizers were delivered to over 10,000 families. Additionally, several online courses were organised to raise awareness on COVID-19. Sidhu, Age 13 from Mumbai, says he was fortunate to be a member of the Children’s Parliament organised by PRATYeK. The much needed and timely support from PRATYeK sustained his family with food during the devastating stage of COVID-19. PRATYeK continued with the Inclusive National General Assembly for Children through an online platform; children from across the country came together virtually and discussed issues about how COVID-19 was affecting their lives. Ending violence against children was discussed during the second consultation. Participants shared their concerns which they planned to take forward to their local, state and national government representatives.
Anuroopa, from Tripura, is one of the seven Zonal Coordinators for Children’s parliaments. Anuroopa lives in an area where connectivity is a tremendous challenge. To address this obstacle, PRATYeK provided a tablet for the Children’s Parliament so that the children in her Zone could connect with other children’s parliaments across India. These children were able to voice their opinions on various child rights issues by participating in weekly National Inclusive Children’s Organising Team (NICOT) meetings and monthly Inclusive National General Assembly meetings and various other platforms to present their concerns.
While none of these projects could have anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic, they have all been able to adjust and adapt to their current realities. We thank Misean Cara, Irish Aid and our private donors for their generous support of these projects during this challenging and unprecedented time.