Lock Down Does Not Mean Laid Off for Special Families in Matagalpa Nicaragua
By Rebecca Trujillo - directora
Workers getting ready to enter into lockdown.
Being employed is one of the most important values for young people with a handicap who are part of Familias Especiales in Matagalpa Nicaragua. Right now in many businesses are closing. Some big international factories have recently moved out of the country because of the social political crisis that we are all living since April 2018. This has caused widespread unemployment. One company in our northern area closed leaving 8,0000 workers without a job. So when they begin to close we are aware that the person with a handicap is usually the first laid off. In 2020 Familias Especiales hired people who were laid off by these companies because they had skills that we needed either in administration, business or social services and they happened to be people with a handicap. But as they started work the corona virus came to Nicaragua invited by a government wanting foreign investment and yet denying the existence of the virus. So we have not seen the benefits yet of our new employees. As of March 25 we decided to go on lock down to protect our health and those around us a very hard decision but necessary for an organization who works with people who are vulnerable and at the greatest risk of this virus. The decision was made by the foundation to close as Nicaragua started having cases of Covid19. We could not envision doing anything else. This was not mandated by the government, schools have stayed open, nothing has been shut by government health concerns. At this time in late June the government of Nicaragua has mostly ignored the pandemic and have not order any social distancing or self-protection for their citizens. The country leads in the percentage of deaths : cases ratio in Central America. This is a sad reality that we have to live with and come through alive. Our projected return is now scheduled for end of July, with hopes that we can feel secure to bring all workers back without infecting one another. Since there is no testing in our country we don’t want to just start up again. It is very hard without any support or acceptance. Everything is an unknown for us but we continue to follow social media from Central American countries and the World Health organization. That is all we have.
We also set up WhatsApp groups to keep in touch with workers and those families who have access to social media. The small businesses in FE worked together on the closures to ensure that we did not lose products and all employees were in on the loop.
As our main goal is to create jobs for people with a handicap who otherwise would not have the opportunity to work, we started with the idea that it would be a shorter time. We said “ you are being paid to stay at home and take care of your health and protect yourself and others.” three months into the lock down we have several of our workers who have gotten the virus and are struggling to recuperate because it is not recognized here and there is no special treatment developed or put into practice. We also recognized that people were not getting the right nutrition and most social programs were shut down many permanently so we have taken it on ourselves to begin to provide monthly food packages. Staff were very active in getting out each month more than 200 packages of basic grains to people we work with in the neighborhoods of Matagalpa., including the workers.
We used the delivery of these food packages to educate as we went in trucks with our workers in protective gear not getting out of the trucks but letting each individual enter into the double cabin and receive a small talk about the virus and being able to talk a bit about their experience so far. We are trying to motivate people to stay in their homes to avoid the virus. This is not our usual style of direct work with the families but because public transportation is so crowded and the food shortage is so great we decided to do it in this manner to help our families when they are getting no help other help. We posted a you tube link of an inspirational video that we did about corona virus for our organization, on our you tube channel. We are a program to provide employment not a program to lay people off while spreading the disease unknowingly
Families Especial wants to thank everyone for their support of our jobs program and to say directly we are not going away we would prefer to be working actively to involve people with a handicap We are already working on plans on how we will reopen in a healthy safe way, but it is not easy. We have all changed in many ways and the job market is different with more competition for jobs and less security in our society.
We are aware that all over the world countries are at different stages in this virus, this dangerous unknown threat and we continue to keep everyone in the world in our prayers. A small prayer from children: Dear God be good to me the sea is so wide and my boat is so small. Let’s all share our boats to be safe.
Food package to help get through the lockdown.
Goodbye was not easy as workers left for lockdown.
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