Dec 28, 2020

Back to School in the Bahamas, Together

Just six months after Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas, the COVID-19 pandemic began. Here, just like most other places in the world, lockdowns went into effect, schools closed down, and tourism basically disappeared. Because communities here on the ground were still recovering from the immense damage caused by the storm, many were left even more vulnerable to this new pandemic reality.

The island of Abaco was the most severely affected by Hurricane Dorian. Overall, the storm claimed the lives of hundreds and caused significant damage, with 75% of the homes in the Marsh Harbour area destroyed. Water sources were flooded with sea water, causing salination levels to skyrocket, rendering the water unsafe for drinking.

But recovery efforts were cut short. The hurricane hit in September 2019, and just as communities were beginning to get back to their daily lives, COVID-19 arrived. But this second disaster, layered on top of the most recent emergency, took a toll on our communities that we never could have anticipated. Whereas after the hurricane we were able to get together to support one another and rebuild as a community, this time, the simple act of gathering was extremely dangerous.

While many other communities around the globe switched to virtual events, this was not possible for many in Abaco, who were still without electricity due to infrastructural damage caused by the hurricane. This also meant no WiFi. Hundreds of students across the island were unable to access virtual education programming and see their teachers and friends. Many of these children had already been out of classes for much of the year because of damage to their school buildings.

As always, IsraAID Bahamas worked closely with local partners to assess and then address these rapidly changing needs. During the immediate lockdown, IsraAID joined forces with ADRA and Latter-Day Saint Charities to distribute tablets with solar chargers and data packages to children who could not access daily classes. We also launched training sessions for local teachers, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, on integrating psychosocial support and stress relief for children amid the pandemic. Through these webinars, the IsraAID team reached 1,900 beneficiaries.

On October 5, schools reopened. IsraAID’s “Healthy Return to School” program, implemented in partnership with MASHAV of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, aims to ease this transition by distributing hygiene products and personal protective equipment to local schools on Grand Bahama island — which, like Abaco, was significantly affected by Hurricane Dorian. Schools are provided with disinfectants, gloves, hand sanitizers and thermometers, to ensure that face-to-face teaching would be as safe as possible. A local service organization, the Anchor Division of the Pilot Club (Lucaya), made and donated 500 reusable face masks for one of the primary schools, ensuring that students can attend school comfortably and safely. This program is ongoing, and will continue for the coming months.

Returning to school represents so much more than mathematics and spelling and reading. It also allows children, parents, teachers, and communities to come back together, to learn and grow. This social fabric is essential to cultivating resilient communities, who know how to rely on one another, work together, and look forward toward the future. Whether this is in a virtual classroom on a tablet, or in a physical classroom behind a mask, or in our new Stronger Together Center, which will serve as an emergency shelter and resource center, the IsraAID team is committed to continuing supporting vulnerable communities as they recover from crisis, together.

Nov 9, 2020

Back to School Amid a Global Pandemic

Since the start of the pandemic, school closures and stay-at-home orders have left many children worldwide out of school. While some education systems have reopened schools with hygiene measures in place, others are still reliant on remote and virtual learning, and some are not going back to school at all.

IsraAID’s access to education programs across the globe are focused on assisting children, teachers, and caregivers throughout this challenging period. For locations with limited infrastructure, this means ensuring safe water access and adequate hygiene systems. In others, communities and educational staff may lack access to psychosocial support to ease this transition.

IsraAID remains committed to providing assistance to children and broader educational frameworks at this time, through our “Back-to-School” programming.

Dominica & the Bahamas

Hurricane Maria in Dominica in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019 caused long-term damage to schools - including hygiene and sanitation facilities - across each country. The major educational needs caused by these disasters have now been exacerbated by COVID-19.IsraAID’s teams are working closely with each Caribbean nation’s Ministry of Education to ensure schools have the psychosocial support, handwashing infrastructure, hygiene supplies, and information they need to keep their staff and students safe. In both countries, our “Back-to-School” distributions are providing educational facilities with personal protective equipment, thermometers, cleaning supplies, hygiene promotion posters, and hand sanitizer.

Mozambique

IsraAID is working to help rehabilitate hygiene infrastructure - such as handwashing stations - destroyed by last year’s Cyclone Idai. Currently, only 15% of schools in Mozambique are equipped with basic hygiene services.IsraAID is working with its partners in Mozambique, including the Ministry of Education, to outfit schools across Sofala Province with adequate hygiene facilities to ensure that children can go back to school safely. In addition, our teams are providing educational materials to help teachers integrate hygiene promotion and disease prevention into the classroom setting, and supporting school communities to produce soap from locally-available materials - ensuring a long-term, sustainable supply.

Colombia

In Colombia, formal education facilities are to remain closed until at least January 2021. For many of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrant and refugee children, this exacerbates existing academic gaps after an already-long period out of school. IsraAID’s team in Barranquilla has reopened one of its Child Friendly Spaces to provide education support for these children according to coronavirus safety standards. Groups of five children will be able to attend 40-minute educational and psychosocial sessions twice a week, coupled with at-home, remote mathematics programming provided in partnership with Israeli start-up, Mathika. A second Child Friendly Space is due to open in the coming month.

Mexico

In Mexico City, the IsraAID team implemented our “Returning to My Healthy and Safe School” program for local teachers and education staff. This series of online workshops, alongside an implementation guide, garnered hundreds of participants from schools across the city. Through IsraAID Back-to-School programming, 14,000 students received hygiene products for use in classrooms. The Ministry of Education is currently scaling this program to the national level, reaching even more teachers, staff, and students.

Greece

For several months, the “Secret Garden Educational Center,” IsraAID’s education and psychosocial support facility for refugee children on the Greek island of Lesbos, has been operating online, via daily digital content and the weekly distribution of homework and activity packs. Refugee camps on the island have been in complete lockdown since March, with stringent guidelines to stymie the spread of COVID-19. IsraAID’s team in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki has established a community-led mask sewing initiative and will be sending their hand made masks to Lesbos for children to use when they return to classes. In addition, daily classes will include hygiene promotion lessons in smaller groups with more shifts, to ensure that children are able to return to class in a safe manner.

Thank you for your continued support during this challenging period.

Nov 2, 2020

Radio Series Combatting Pandemic Side Effects

In Mozambique, where communities are still working to overcome the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai, which displaced thousands and severely damaged hygiene and sanitation infrastructure, people are at high risk for the rapid spread of disease. This could cause a secondary crisis and exacerbate humanitarian aid efforts. IsraAID first arrived in Mozambique following Cyclone Idai in March 2019. Since then, IsraAID has worked in the sectors of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH); Child Protection; Psychosocial Support (PSS); Medical Care; and Disaster Risk Reduction to support emergency response efforts toward building back better.

IsraAID is implementing long-term, sustainable projects to bolster psychosocial support within the education system in Sofala Province and increase community resilience toward future crises. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the IsraAID team launched distribution campaigns to support program continuity despite the shutdown, seeking to provide school children and their families with basic hygiene supplies, information about preventing the spread of COVID-19, and resilience kits, to compensate for the ongoing gap in psychosocial support services in these communities.

We are working with its partners in Mozambique including the Ministry of Education to outfit schools across Sofala Province with adequate facilities to ensure that children can go back to school safely. In addition, our teams are providing basic equipment and curricular materials to help teachers integrate hygiene into the classroom setting.

In October, in partnership with Radio of Mozambique, we launched a series of live radio programs and developed 1-minute spot-stories, for both children and adults, as part of its response to COVID-19 pandemic side effects. The program is broadcasted live weekly in Portuguese with Kalida, our senior psychosocial support (PSS) officer, in the studio providing feedback and engaging in conversations with listeners who call to present their questions, doubts and fears.The program is then translated into the two main provincial languages, Ndau and Sena, to be broadcasted also twice a week. The spot-stories is a creative piece of work between IsraAID and the writers of Radio of Mozambique, who turn relevant PSS content into spots that both capture children and adults.

By partnering up with the Radio of Mozambique and embracing the local languages of the province, this program and the spot-stories have the potential to reach more than two million people in the Province of Sofala. The contents are also available for free to the local community radios. So far, 3 of the 6 planned programs have been broadcasted, discussing COVID-19, Stress and Stigma. The content of the radio show was developed by the Mozambique PSS team together with other Protection specialists.  

 Thank you for your continued support.

 
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