“Are you mad! No one will want to help!” This was what one person told me when they heard that Global Care was launching an appeal to help vulnerable children overseas, affected by the coronavirus crisis. I hope and pray they were wrong.
Three weeks ago I was in Nairobi, Kenya, desperately trying to get a flight back to the UK, having found out that Uganda was requiring visitors to complete a 14-day quarantine before being able to enter the country fully. Originally Steve (Head of Operations) and I were due to travel to Uganda from Kenya to visit all our projects, but this had to be abandoned. We managed to get on a flight back to Amsterdam and then on to the UK. The flight was absolutely full but we were so grateful to be on it.
Since then things have moved on so quickly. Day to day I have had to make difficult decisions. Often reviewing them on an hourly basis! Increasingly we moved our staff to home working and are now operating the office with only a skeleton staff. It is the first time our team has been dispersed for so long. We are learning how to hold meetings via Zoom and work much harder to keep each other up to date with all that is going on. I spend so much of my time on the phone or Zoom!
Two weeks ago I had to close all our shops. Fortunately we decided to do so before the government announced that all non-essential shops should close, which enabled us to plan the closures more effectively. However it was not a happy day when we sent all our volunteers and staff away. Thinking of some of our wonderful volunteers who themselves often struggle with life and all that it throws at them, and how they will now be separated from their shop families still worries me. I was so appreciative of the way the shop managers and volunteers fought up to the last hour of trading to try and get in as much income as possible to support “our” children. I hope that they will all be able to come back, when the time is right, to restart this important part of our fundraising.
So many of our projects around the world are now experiencing their governments’ “lock down” restrictions. This is causing untold suffering. All the children we support belong to vulnerable communities and families. Many live day to day. Many are only able to have food by working, getting paid that day and then immediately buying food to eat. With no work, no opportunity to gain income, it means that many children are going to bed hungry.
Speaking to our partners in different parts of the world, the anguish is so apparent. They are so desperate to do something that some have asked: “Can we use the money you sent us for our salaries to buy food for the children?” This selflessness of our partners drove us to launch an appeal here in the UK to provide extra financial support at this devastating time. Initially I was very unsure about the idea of an appeal, as so many are suffering here in the UK, and there is so much uncertainty. We just don’t know what is going to happen day to day, nor do we have any idea of how things will be once coronavirus has been contained.
But the more I have thought about it, the more I have heard about children are not being able to eat, or read about the rampant escalation in food prices in so many poor communities, and hearing our partners overseas begging us for help, the easier it has been to actually launch the appeal. I hope and pray that many will hear the cry of our partners and respond.
As for myself, as for so many of you, life has taken on a bit of a surreal feel. At home so much of the time. Trying to create structure and flow. Trying to differentiate between work and non-work. But all the time having the feeling that whatever I am going through is nothing compared to the children who live in the Kibera slum in Nairobi who are stuck in a shack, those families in Patripul (India) who are not able to go out to work so cannot eat, or the children with disabilities in Soroti Uganda whose guardians and parents are finding it hard to find or afford food for them. It is to them that, often, my thoughts flee.
CEO, Global Care