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How we’re finding community resilience amidst uncertainty

POSTED May 25, 2020

How we’re finding community resilience amidst uncertainty

Although support is still needed, our country director is encouraged by how communities we help in India are responding to the pandemic

By Nancy Anabel, country director, India

Sadhana stands in front bush

As the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the world into an unprecedented emergency, I can’t help but consider the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. They were conceived to address global challenges, “leaving no one behind” by 2030, yet, we’re truly beginning to see how this outbreak could indeed “leave” many vulnerable people behind.

The lockdown and economic and social crisis is exacerbating inequities and exclusion in my homeland of India. Its effect on the underprivileged and vulnerable — particularly daily-wage earners, migrant workers and the poorest — is multi-dimensional.

Self-isolation has hit them hard, impacting their nutrition, livelihood, safety, mental health and their children’s learning opportunities. The most vulnerable are children, — including those with special needs — pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Given that we’re providing relief and response our team has government permission to keep in contact with families we help over the phone. It’s how I heard from Santhiya, a 13-year-old, who said, “I feel lazy due to inadequate food, and there’s no money at home due to job loss among my parents. It gives me mental anguish.”

A 25-year-old mother-of-two who’s expecting her third child in four months — and wished to remain anonymous — revealed how difficult it is to provide even two meals a day for her family.

Indeed, Santhiya and this mom are not alone. UNICEF reports 368.5-million children across 143 countries must find other sources of nutrition after losing access to school meals.

Children Believe’s work

Our teams around the world are committed to helping these vulnerable families find hope. In India, we’re addressing basic needs through our partners, with government support.

  • we’ve distributed more than 3,000 food kits filled with dry rations and groceries and more than 11,000 hygiene kits filled with soap, masks and sanitary napkins
  • we’re sharing messages on social-distancing, handwashing and self-isolation
  • our staff are providing psycho-social support to ensure the mental well-being of children and families in need

Suganya stands in front flowers

We’re also focusing on education, as the pandemic has highlighted disparities in India. Many private-school students have been home-schooling through an online learning platform. Meanwhile, public-school children don’t have access to the same tools. The latter are likely among the nearly one-third of the world’s young people who never accessed the digital world, as reported by the United Nations.

So, at Children Believe, we’re providing opportunities to engage children in creative work to hone their life skills. Even now it’s helping. Sadhana (top), 14, told me how her mind is relaxed when she’s sand-sculpting, and her confidence will only grow when she shares that skill with others.

Much help is still needed, but there’s more good news to share: communities and youth are rallying to support one another.

Community resilience 

Moved by an 11-year-old crying out in hunger in the streets of a tribal habitation, community leaders leveraged their resources to set up a feeding program. They put leadership skills they learned in our sponsorship program to use and followed social-distancing, hand-washing and other health guidelines to help their community. They also offered pre- and ante-natal care to pregnant and lactating mothers, masks to families and sanitary napkins, along with education on COVID-19.

Although it was difficult to do this given the current COVID-19 regulations, the village of people was committed. “I empathize with the pain of the hungry, since I myself have experienced it many times,” a member of the local mother’s club and Village Development Committee told us. “Being a mother of two children, I realized the urgency…. The training by Children Believe has helped me approach others in confidence, articulate the challenges of my fellow community members and be part of the solution.”

Children and youth champion change

Children and youth have been stepping up to help, too. In fact, youth groups, formed by Children Believe, connected with our program staff to safely deliver soap, dry rations and food baskets to more than 2,300 families. This was possible thanks to nearly $6,000 in donations from local political leaders, police and other well-wishers.

And, as the economic crisis and family isolation deepens, the threat of child-protection issues such as child marriage, child abuse and child labour grows. Thankfully, we haven’t heard of any such cases in our operational areas, which we’re attributing to training that’s already happened and unofficially continues.

“Our parents are now keen about child protection and appreciative of our voice for protecting child rights,” Suganya (above), 15, told us. Even during these times, youth are making crafts and continuing to use them to share messages of child protection in their homes. They’re talking to their parents about child rights and laws governing them.

So, while the pandemic continues to bring challenges, I’m grateful communities we help in India are already showing signs of resilience, working to minimize inequalities and exclusion.

Will you help them help themselves? To find out more about how you can provide support, visit childrenbelieve.ca/COVID.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.