Covid-19 caught us off guard, just as we had finish planning our year. The African optimistic view has always been that this will pass shortly. The Let’s Give Them Hope children were even a little excited to leave school and be at home for a while. However, we were very worried about how this would affect our program, we were worried that we would not be able to handle the virus if it did come into our community. We have the lowest structures in place in order to contain the virus and social distance is one of the hardest skills for a village in Africa. Mothers are used to sit together and chat about the world and children have no video games or WhatsApp or even tv sets to get some type of entertainment, what they know is meeting up for a game of soccer or netball. We knew this would be a huge problem.
We had to shut down the program as all institutions did, however because to many families we remained the main source for a meal, we managed to do a month shopping for the families in our program. We could not visit the families, but we made sure there was communication going up and down the community to keep a watch over our children. We also remained open for children in dire need or who were facing problems to come to the organisation center and be helped. Our kids still felt important and cared for. Prior to closing, we held a lot of teaching about washing hands, keeping a distance from one another, and not travelling at this time. This was taught to the families, the church and to the children. It did not fall to deaf ears, but it was all in all just a new concept and we knew it would be difficult for them to do.
As it turned out, the children would meet (not at the centre) but withing their communities and play, adults would also still meet up and have their conversations. It was different and there was a bit more social distance taking place, but not enough to keep us from constantly being nervous and worried. It was not only covid 19 that kept us worried, we knew that with boredom building up, and with less watchful eyes from teachers and the LGTH, the children were very vulnerable. One of our saddest moments came 2 months into the lock down, one of the young boys who had gone swimming with some of other children drowned in the dam. There had been no adult around, and they had gone to the dam to get away from being at home. This was very unfortunate and a huge sad moment for all of us at Let’s give them hope.
Other noticeable effects of the virus and lock down, included another teenage boy from our program experimenting with drugs which he was influenced in by some of the other boys from the community, we jumped in immediately to help him through this. A few of the girls have been seen with some older guys and there is noticeable bad behaviour from some of them. We knew we had to intervene, and we slowly started just one on one meetings with the teenagers. The center re-opened beginning of May for feeding. The children could come in, take a plate of food, eat and go home. We had to remain precautious and therefore there is still no group gatherings, games or social, they only come to eat.
Although it seems by some miracle the virus jumped over our community, we remain cautious and continue to teach our children to wash their hands and keep a distance from each other.