Thank you very much for responding to last week’s appeal to support those affected by the COVID-19 challenge. Your notes and calls of encouragement are much appreciated, and several have also asked us how you may support our efforts as volunteers. After reviewing the feedback from our members in the next few days, we will come back with possible ways we can work together.
Your generosity has enabled us to designate a fund of $6000 to 6 different localities we are working in. The purpose of the fund is to provide a quick response to meet basic needs. So far about $800 in a combination of cash and vouchers have been disbursed benefitting 11 families and we are in the process of disbursing another $3000 for another 29 families. These were mainly situations where income was lost because wage work was reduced. The amount of assistance given out has not been significant from a financial point of view but the calls we made were well received. Our members appreciated a friendly voice; one that spoke their language and could make small talk about the neighbourhood. This was possible because we recruited members to help with the calling. They were happy and proud to be able to contribute and to receive some food vouchers for their families.
To date, we have spoken to over 200 persons on the phone; about half indicated they were coping well, and not significantly affected by the virus situation. Many were rather jovial but as conversations continued, concerns about sustainable employment and the inability to meet basic needs emerged. About 35% of those we called cited these as concerns and another 14% were worried about their finances.
We got a sense that those we reached were doing their best to stay optimistic. We find this admirable but remain concerned as this is a group of people who are especially vulnerable to stress and unexpected events in their lives. Already living with less, many will not be able to fall back on savings or easily find decent work opportunities. Retraining is of course a possibility, but I imagine anyone caught in such a situation will find it very hard.
While we hope that their positive outlook and optimism will be in abundance, measures should also be taken to alleviate these stresses through tapping on government and community support. Our next move is to facilitate a heightened awareness of what’s happening in the neighbourhoods we work in; we aim to do this with the input of members, whom we hope to engage in honest conversations about their challenges.
Wishing you, health and peace of mind.
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” James Thurber