Children at our food hamper distribution last week
On March 11th 2020 the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic—and turned all of our lives upside down. One year ago, a hug went from a warm greeting to a health hazard. We were forced to separate from friends and family; tragically, some of us lost friends and family.
The first case of Covid 19 was detected in Kenya on March 13th. The government immediately sprang into action, closing all schools, small shops, open markets, factories and basically any means of employment where the wage earner was surviving on a bare minimum salary to begin with, and no backup savings. Often, if a son or daughter had a job in one of the larger cities, money was sent home to elderly parents each month to enable them to pay for the minimum essentials of food and shelter.
Being a school, we were told to close Kijiji Mission and send all of our students’ home to their overcrowded slums. Fortunately, we were able to convince the area officials to let most of our students stay with us, where they would be safe. We just weren't allowed to function as a school, meaning that Martha could no longer follow her curriculum.
Not a problem! There was an immediate need for facemasks. So, we got to work making facemasks to be given out to anyone in the community who couldn't afford to purchase one.
With the help of local Lions Club, Rotary, Rotaract Club and local small NGO's we were able to get thousands of facemasks out to the most vulnerable in our community as quickly as possible.
Within a very short time it became obvious that women who relied on a few dollars a day to feed their children by doing washing, housework or selling in the markets had nothing to feed their families. As soon as we were out of our two-week quarantine period at the end of March, we did our first food hamper distribution program, and we've been doing them every week ever since.
Our focus is the elderly, child headed households, single female headed households and people living with disabilities. One valuable lesson that has come out of our journey through 2020 is that this segment of the population will need our assistance long after the "new normal" sets in. Martha and Ephantus have committed themselves to doing the food distribution on weekends for as long as Springs of Hope Foundation can afford to provide the food and a small petrol allowance for Ephantus' donated vehicle.
Last weekend we were able to distribute 190 food hampers to the elderly and people living with disabilities. Each hamper contains enough food to feed a family of four for two weeks.
On most food distribution occasions we are able to do more than provide much needed food. We usually come across situations where the family needs additional assistance or counseling.
For example, recently we met a young mother of two boys were both born blind. Ephantus was able to assist their mother by getting them enrolled into a school in Nakuru that caters to the special needs of blind children. Something their single mother would never have known how to go about doing.
Finally, on September 1st we were able to bring in new students. Primary and high schools were still closed, but as a vocational training school Kijiji Mission was able to begin teaching again. We'd built up a backlog of very needy women who were eager to join our 12-month program. Most had been recommended by the area chiefs who we met when doing our food distribution program. Unfortunately, we can only bring them in one at a time, placing them in our now unused volunteer house for a two-week quarantine period. We've been admitting new students for the past six months and we still have women on the waiting list.
At last, the students who began their 12-month training with us in January 2020 will be graduating at the end of this month. Normally graduation is a huge celebration. Families often hire a minivan to bring the many family members who want to be part of their graduation ceremony.
Sadly, like the last graduation ceremony in August 2020, only the students and staff will be able to celebrate their many accomplishments and personal sacrifices during the past 16 months.
Thank you for being part of our unexpected, unpredictable journey. During the past 12 months we've learned that we're capable of doing many things when called to serve. Such as instantly pivoting from being a vocational training school to a mass production facility. By the way, the girls loved being in a position to give back to their communities, and often worked on the facemasks through their lunch break and on weekends.
We've learned so much about the unaddressed needs of the elderly and people living with disabilities. During the past 12 months, because of your generous support we've been able to assist in our modest way. We are committed to continuing with the food program, and hopefully seeing it grow.
But, most importantly 2020 has shown us all that, when the going gets tough, the very best in everyone comes out. Martha, Ephantus, Beryl, and our students did an outstanding job of getting everyone through a very stressful 12 months.
My huge gratitude and thanks go out to our team in Kenya and to our generous supporters all over the world who make it all possible,
Elderly recipients of our food hamper program
New students becoming familiar with their machines
New students learning how to draft a pattern