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May 28, 2020

Improving Livelihoods During COVID-19

Communities around the world have been affected by the recent coronavirus pandemic, and the refugee community in Germany is no exception. 

Prior to the pandemic, IsraAID Germany was operating multiple leadership groups through the Kompass program. Through these groups, members were able to create micro-communities of refugees from different countries and cultures, coming together to create a generation of refugee leaders who are engaged in the wider society and investing their future into the local communities. These groups took the lessons that they learned through their previous development sessions, to be leaders in a country-wide COVID-19 assistance project. 

Members of the Kompass program have created and edited videos, which train other refugees involved with IsraAID how to create protective face masks. Following the creation of the video, work stations were put in place in Stuttgart, Berlin and Frankfurt, allowing for small teams of refugee volunteers to sew hundreds of protective face masks. These masks are being sent out to refugee shelters around the country, as well as Holocaust survivors, homeless people, and the elderly, making sure vulnerable people nationwide have access to protection. So far there have been 30 volunteers working on rotation, to ensure that we keep to social distancing guidelines. Recently the volunteers have been producing 150 masks a week, but soon this will be increased to 200. As the volunteers become more experienced and comfortable with the process, we are hoping the number of masks that the teams can produce will continue to increase steadily.

Whilst many services, shops, and community activities are temporarily shut, the IsraAID volunteers are not only able to use their time productively, but through producing the masks, they are providing access to society for so many other refugees. Masks have been made compulsory on public transport and in many stores, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. By IsrAID's Kompass leaders providing access to masks for vulnerable people around the country, these individuals are able to enter the supermarket, attend a religious service, or take a bus to a medical appointment. 

Thank you for your continued support of IsraAID. 

May 27, 2020

Supporting School Communities in Mexico

IsraAID has had a team in Mexico since a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit near Puebla in September 2017, just two weeks after the previous lethal earthquake in the area. The crisis caused hundreds of fatalities, and severe damage to multiple buildings and infrastructure including access to water, electricity and roads. Just days after the second earthquake hit, IsraAID sent a team for initial emergency response in the community. Since then, IsraAID Mexico has served tens of thousands of individuals through immediate response, and in long-term recovery and development programming. 

Due to its geographic location, Mexico is at a high risk of more disasters in the future. It has therefore been vital that IsraAID's work is not only in recovery and response to the most recent earthquakes, but also in increasing resilience in the case of future disasters. IsraAID has worked in hundreds of schools around the country to prepare the staff for future emergencies, as well as working with community leaders and parents to similarly be prepared in the home.

More specifically, IsraAID has developed a Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) program which focused on providing training and socio-technical support to 20 public schools (kindergarten, elementary and high schools) in Morelos state. The DRR program integrates elements of mental health and psychosocial support; recommends preventative measures before, during and after an emergency situation; and provides structure to support the creation and education of a school safety plan. 

Due to the recent COVID-19 crisis and many schools closed, IsraAID Mexico's work has changed, but we are still able to support school communities through our Health and Hygiene program. In partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Secretariat of Comprehensive Risk Management & Civil Protection, IsraAID has developed a four-session workshop, as well as a guide, with practical steps on how to ensure a safe and healthy return to schools - once they are reopened.

Even when the schools do reopen, there may still be a risk of infection from the virus, so the program teaches the educational staff how to monitor water and hygiene practices in the school setting. There is a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 which causes confusion and can actually prevent people from taking the appropriate hygiene measures, so also included in the training is information about the virus to ensure that the education staff fully understands what the virus really means for them and their students. In our first live online workshop, we reached 91 people among school staff, supervisors and educational authorities. The aim is to reach all high schools in Mexico City. As we are taking a holistic approach, IsraAID is also providing classroom hygiene kits and school sanitation products. The online sessions are joined by local staff in Mexico, as well as our WASH coordinator in IsraAID's HQ in Israel.

Thank you for supporting our work in Mexico, especially during this especially challenging time.   

May 18, 2020

Coronavirus and the Venezuelan Refugee Crisis

For almost a year, IsraAID’s team in Colombia has been responding to the ongoing Venezuelan displacement crisis. More than 5 million Venezuelans have left the country due to the worsening humanitarian situation. At least 1.8 million are in Colombia.IsraAID’s team — based in Barranquilla in the Caribbean region — works with Venezuelans, Colombian returnees, and the host community.

Colombia, like almost every other country in the world, is dealing with social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With refugees and other vulnerable populations left with limited access to resources, including education, psychosocial support, employment, and food, our team is working to respond to this rapidly shifting environment, seeking to fill the gaps created by this new normal. The pandemic risks making an already urgent humanitarian situation even worse.

Before coronavirus, our team provided educational and psychosocial support services to about 100 children, including refugees and Colombian returnees from Venezuela, and members of the host community here in Barranquilla, each day. IsraAID’s Child-Friendly Spaces serve as a touchpoint for community work, investing deeply in each child’s resilience, development, and potential to become a leader. During regular operations, IsraAID’s two Child Friendly Spaces provide two daily meals to the children who attend — but now, these children are left even more vulnerable than they were before. These were the main meals of the day for many of these children, whose parents have now been left without an income. Seeking to fill this gap, we are distributing food baskets for families who need this support.

Fewer jobs, and therefore resources, also means that stress skyrockets. Kids notice when their parents are stressed, and too often adults don’t realize that providing stress relief activities for their children can actually offer a similar release for themselves as well. Lockdown also makes it likely that we will see an increase in the number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence, like domestic and child abuse. These were issues before COVID-19 drastically shifted the reality on the ground, but, today, we’re even more concerned.

With these issues in mind, we are being creative in how we provide communities with access to psychosocial support programming in a socially distant way. We delivered resilience kits to 50 households, reaching some 250 beneficiaries. These kits include expressive art materials, educational resources, hygiene items like soap and hand sanitizer, and key messaging to combat misinformation on how COVID-19 is spread and what families can do to keep themselves safe. We’ve distributed and shared pamphlets with key self-care tips and activities that parents and children can do together. We’re leading online activities — such as Zumba classes — and encouraging families who can share their internet access with neighbors who may not be able to attend and connect with others.

Thank you for supporting our projects during this especially challenging time.

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