Update from the Latin American Region
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every corner of the globe. For Edmund Rice Mission in Latin America, the projects have adjusted their activities to this new landscape while responding to the challenges facing their beneficiaries.
At the Centro Hermano Manolo (CeHM) project in Cochabamba, Bolivia, all in-person services catering to the working children and their families stopped in March. The working children are now accompanied through phone calls and WhatsApp regularly; each month, CeHM offers a new theme to focus on through this media. Academic tutoring has also continued virtually. The project purchased 24 mobile phones for the families who did not have one, so that these activities could continue.
At the beginning of the pandemic, CeHM sent bulletins to the children and their families on COVID information and protection as many were receiving misinformation from different sources (social networks, local neighbourhoods and their leaders). Throughout the pandemic, the needs of families have been responded to through the delivery of food and PPE on seven occasions thanks to local and donor support. In the coming weeks, the project is going to provide another round of food assistance to the families, which has been possible due to the generosity of Misean Cara funding.
The Fe y Alegría project in Lima, Peru has also adapted to the COVID pandemic. The closure of the school prompted the project to deliver its counselling and accompaniment virtually. This led to additional obstacles as there were a significant number of students who did not have access to internet. To respond to this challenge, the project launched a campaign to collect second-hand mobile phones, tablets and laptops. They also connected with different training organisations to provide technological assistance and help to the students. Many of the families lost their jobs and their financial income, so the project responded by providing food baskets to those in need.
The project has implemented the following activities:
- Virtual workshops for teachers on emotional health.
- Delivery of cell phones, tablets and laptops to students.
- Delivery of food baskets to families.
- Counselling for students at risk.
- Fertilizing and irrigation of plants with volunteers.
- Virtual campaigns on environmentalism.
- Recycling and cleaning activities with families.
- Composting activities with students in their homes
"The day I received a phone call from the project, it was a great joy for me. I had neither food nor money to purchase anything to cook because I lost my job. With the help from the project, I was able to feed my children. It was also a great help when they provided me with a second-hand laptop. Now my son can work in his virtual classes more independently. Previously, he depended on my cell phone, so I couldn't go out to look for a job when he was using it. Without the laptop, my son would have missed the school year".
– Mrs. Mirtha Aquino Sovero, mother of a second grade primary school student
The Reaching New Horizons project in Chimbote, Peru has been able to transfer many of its activities online. However, this was not without challenges. The project knew that many of the families and children have limited or no access to internet. With schooling now completely remote, families were relying on television and radio for classes and WhatsApp to receive and send assignments to teachers. The project was able to provide data bundles to the beneficiaries so that they could access education.
The Reaching New Horizons team has been able to continue coordinating with teachers, parents and local government institutions to help support the students and their families. The psychologist, social worker and the art and culture teacher have engaged families actively with creative alternatives to achieve the goals set out for this academic year. Some of these activities include printing workbooks for children with learning problems and delivering them to parents, facilitating WhatsApp groups for parents and students to deal with learning and behavioural problems, holding a virtual art and culture contest and printing educational materials for students. The social worker continues to network with local government agencies to attend to the social and health issues of the families.
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 and our private donors for their generous support of these projects.