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Jun 22, 2020

Virtual Recreation Room During COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 is felt everywhere, but in Dominica, we have continued our work with the Ministry of Education to ensure that our youngest beneficiaries still have plenty to keep them occupied.

"Despite the need for physical distancing during this time, we wanted to offer support to parents, caregivers, and most importantly young children. Instead of our regular interventions, we decided to engage with children virtually through interactive, tailored to context, recreational activities online. Along with the virtual activities, over 300 children on the eastern side of Dominica received a physical recreation kit with DIY arts and crafts materials, as well as an activity book, and a toolkit of suggested tips for parents relevant to this emergency" - IsraAID Country Director, Dana Yaari. 

The team has created recreation kits for distribution to children in the community, which allows the children to still have access to education and mental health resources, even if we cannot meet face-to-face. In the kits are activity books for the children - with any specific supplies required for the arts and crafts activities - as well as a COVID-19 toolkit for parents, which aims to support parents during this challenging time. It's important that the children are able to keep their brain active and continue their education, and it is equally important that their parents are in a position where they are able to support their children. The toolkit for parents provides information regarding the virus, as well as different strategies for managing their children's education and dealing with this intense time for the family. 

We have also started a Virtual Recreation Room - My Virtual Buddies and I - where IsraAID staff have been running different sessions for some of IsraAID's youngest beneficiaries. The platform is aimed at children aged 3-5, and allows them to interact with the local presenters - the virtual buddies - who provide stimulating activities for the children to engage with from their home. This is done through pre-recorded sessions that may be stories, songs, or arts and crafts activities. 

Below are some of the activities that we have already shared:

  • Dernel started the activity with a song, introducing herself to the audience, and then told an exciting story about a spider and a tiger with lots of animation
  • Becca introduced herself as a friend to the children and ran a fun activity on how to make a Bottle Shack Shack, a fun and easy-to-make musical instrument that can be made with items found around the home or garden. She then sang 'Wheels on the Bus', using a different shack shacks for different parts of the song.
  • Dernel showed the children how to make puppets out of paper bags or cardboard boxes that they might already have at home. This was in anticipation of a future puppet show that will be in the Virtual Recreation Room.

There has been a lot of engagement all over the country, with teachers and parents sending videos of their children engagement, painting, and creating! 

Thank you for your continued support of IsraAID.  

Jun 21, 2020

Community Support Amid COVID-19

Two years on from the eruption of Volcan de Fuego in June 2018, IsraAID’s Guatemala mission is still necessary for many vulnerable people in Escuintla. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added challenges, for people who may not have access to water, soap, and other supplies, and may be struggling to find work during this time.

Throughout the pandemic, IsraAID’s team in Guatemala has focused on making sure the community has the necessary hygiene and food supplies, as well as the correct information to stay as healthy as possible. We have been distributing flyers to raise awareness and increase knowledge about the virus and good habits to practice. These flyers were given to local community members, but the team also gave informative posters to local service providers for any service users to see. For community members who are older or who have existing health problems, they have been equipped with hygiene supplies to minimize the chance of infection.

Not even the most difficult of situations can prevent the community from helping each other.

Maria is currently managing to live with cancer. It is difficult for her to find a job because of her illness, and as a result, doesn’t always take her medicines because she cannot afford them. Her mother- and father-in-law live just next door, but they are too old to work anymore and therefore cannot financially support Maria through her illness. It isn’t only Maria that has medical issues, as her mother-in-law also has diabetes. Through IsraAID and another NGO, Maria receives boxes of food, bringing some relief to the daily challenges that she faces. In the face of her illness, she still chooses to share the content of these boxes with her in-laws, and often the sharing goes the other way.

Santos is 87 years old. She lives alone which is normally challenging enough, but she has been struggling even more so during the pandemic as she is not able to go out to get food for herself, and she does not have anyone to provide for her. One box can make the simple difference of how many meals Santos will have this week.

Juana’s husband and two of her children died in the volcanic eruption. Fortunately, she has six children that survived the disaster. Her 15-year old son has epilepsy, and she sometimes can’t afford to buy him medicine, but her neighbors help her out to buy the necessary medication. There are some days where they don’t have anything to eat, so the food boxes can be a lifeline for Juana and her family.

Thank you for supporting IsraAID's Guatemala mission during this especially challenging period.

May 28, 2020

Refugees are Particularly Vulnerable During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Cleaning the center
Cleaning the center

In March 2020, the government of Greece temporarily closed all educational facilities to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. For the 115,000 refugees currently hosted by Greece, over 40,000 of whom are living in terrible conditions in camps on the Aegean islands, this news is particularly devastating. Adding to weeks of anti-migrant violence on the islands, growing tensions across Greece and confusing changes to asylum law, the nationwide closure, while necessary, leaves refugee adults and children without any access to educational, social activities, and mental health support. However, the shutdown doesn’t have to mean that learning and development must grind to a halt, as IsraAID’s team in Greece has rapidly mobilized to demonstrate.

IsraAID operates two facilities in Greece: a bustling children’s school next to Moria camp on Lesvos and a busy community center in the town of Sindos, close to Thessaloniki. Both facilities, as educational institutions, have also been shut down for the duration of the national school closure. But the work we have been doing continues.

Sindos Community Centre operates a full program of education and psychosocial support for refugees of all ages, ranging from early childhood development activities for toddlers and homework support for children to Greek and English classes, job preparedness training and cultural awareness workshops for adults. The 100 people who visit each day have suddenly found themselves without anything to do after we followed government instructions and closed our doors. Not wanting to abandon the community, our staff have been busy transforming our activities into an e-learning program, easily accessible to all our community members and the wider refugee population.

Our Greek diploma class, who will be taking national Greek language examinations in two months, have moved their lessons online and are studying via Messenger Video. Our English tutor is creating short grammar instructional videos to upload to our new YouTube channel. Our team of language teachers are developing worksheet packs for distribution and quizzes via Google Forms, for both adults and children. Via Whatsapp, our early childhood development staff are sharing videos, photos and tips for activities to help parents keep their children entertained at home. We’re also working on a ‘how to’ for CV building, so that community members can still focus on getting job-ready.

Isolation and boredom can quite easily take over during this time and our psychosocial support staff are working hard to develop communications and content to reassure and support the population. From meditation videos to regular content on dealing with stress distributed via our Whatsapp groups, our staff will endeavor to maintain positivity and emotional resilience amongst the population. We’re also working on translating guidance and instruction provided by the World Health Organization into Farsi, Arabic and French, to ensure the wider community is taking appropriate measures to protect themselves and their families.

Maintaining some kind of routine for the children is a priority and our goal is to minimize the disruption to their already fragmented education as much as possible. Teachers are busy working on homework packs to distribute via letterboxes outside the school, with exercises in Greek, Farsi, English and Math to keep the children busy. Students will also be able to collect activity packs, with fun puzzles and games to entertain them and some calming techniques, such as breathing exercises, to support their mental wellbeing.

Lack of hygiene and appalling sanitary conditions means keeping clean in Moria is almost impossible, but it’s important that residents do everything they can to minimize transmission and protect themselves and their families. To provide reassurance to parents and disseminate guidance on prevention and risk reduction, staff are carrying out regular check-ins with families via phone as well as producing posters and leaflets for distribution.

The situation for refugees in Greece was already at breaking point. The shutdown of services and schools across the country has left them more isolated and marginalized than ever. But the communities that IsraAID and our partners have built are strong and committed. So, while this new reality is nothing short of alarming, our strength and resilience, along with technological know-how, is already allowing us to find new ways to come together and learn.

Thank you for supporting IsraAID's work in this especially challenging time. 

E-learning - Greek Diploma
E-learning - Greek Diploma

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