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Challenges and resilience in the midst of pandemic

By now I think we all know that Zoom, and video conferencing in general, can be a blessing and a curse. It isn’t the same as being in person – I miss the hugs. But it’s also amazing how this pandemic has opened us up to the possibility of meaningful connection through a screen!

This morning I met online with the Spirit in Action African Advisory Board, Small Business Fund coordinators, and representatives from grant partners. We talked about the immediate crisis that is still happening. We also shared the challenges and opportunities we see for the mid-range response.

It is clear that the pandemic is affecting East African rural and urban communities quite differently.

Farmers in Kenya are gearing up for planting season. The rains are here! Samuel Teimuge is in contact with the local media (TV and radio) to show people the benefits of going organic - “Farming God’s Way.” The soil in the Kerio Valley (part of the Great Rift Valley) is rich with thick river deposits. Women do the bulk of the planting and weeding, and children who are home from school are recruited to help with the work. Food security – growing enough food to last all year – is on everyone’s mind.

Julia stands in her potato farm in Kenya last year

Urban Challenges

In Nairobi and Kampala, the pandemic is more drastically affecting daily life. There is restricted movement in Kenya, and food that is being grown in the rural areas is not making it into the city. We sent another $4,600 this week for food, soap, and facemasks in Kenya. Before we can even get to the long-term, there are immediate needs to get people through this safely.

Universal Love Alliance is still in crisis mode, helping people access food and medical care. LGBT refugees were attacked and ULA was there to get them to safety.

The MILCOT social workers are no longer able to hold their workshops about sexual and reproductive health for girls in Kampala. For now, they have created a WhatsApp chat group to share resources with the girls. (Pictured below are particpants at a MILCOT workshops on breastfeeding in February.)


When Romano Iluku (pictured left) looks at his community in Kibera informal settlement, he sees resilience. “I’m looking for creative alternatives. I know that our community has learned to live with AIDS and other diseases before.” He’s organizing his thoughts around the 3 Rs: re-engage, re-equip, and re-empower, especially in the context of small entrepreneurs who are affected by high prices and a low bulk food supply.

Things are changing quickly and SIA is committed to staying in touch with our partners. There is great value in hearing directly from people about their needs, and their solutions. On this #GivingTuesdayNow, all donations to Spirit in Action will be used right away. Now that we’ve taken the time to listen, we’ll use the funds in ways use local solutions, and bolster the resilience and strength already in African communities.

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