The COVID-19 impact on MWIA global projects
In recent months the COVID-19 pandemic has touched every corner of our world. The communities and work of MWIA and our project partners are severely impacted. Here, we share some of their recent experiences. A reminder that, more than ever, we are interconnected members of the Mary Ward family.
The Kolkata Mary Ward Social Centre in India coordinates several critical projects with the support of MWIA. One major project is the running of more than 15 local schools for children of migrant workers in the brickfields. The open-air factories where clay bricks are handmade have shut down and these workers have lost their livelihood. With no available transport, they cannot return to their native regions and remain stranded at the brickfields. The KMWSC team mobilised its network to distribute rice, dal (lentils), potatoes and salt to 400 families in 4 Brickfield schools.
With the advent of COVID-19, the Darjeeling Mary Ward Social Centre, India, has seen dramatic changes. Their successful Collective Voices program focuses on empowering women, particularly in the areas of gender and labour rights. Many of these women work on the tea plantations of West Bengal which have now closed. The region is in lockdown leaving the traditional workers without money for food. They rely on the good works of organisations like the DMWSC to provide food relief for their families.
Loreto Rumbek in South Sudan sadly had to close its school doors in late March for the first time since it opened in 2008. Following government orders, the girls returned to their families across the country for at least 4 weeks. The health clinic at Loreto Rumbek remains open and recent school graduates who trained as nurses and health care volunteers are engaged in educating the local community on staying safe from coronavirus. During April, this health team reached 3000 people (mostly women) at various water collecting points. They taught the community social distancing, hand washing, the use of the flexed elbow when coughing and avoiding handshaking. COVID-19 cases in South Sudan are thankfully, very few – a good news story at this time!
The Balay Banaag residential children centre in the Philippines is a program providing care and support for the female children of women working as prostitutes to forge an income for themselves and their children. Strict quarantine restrictions mean that social workers, educators and even the children’s mothers can no longer attend the centre, leaving the Marist Sisters to tend to the children’s daily needs.
Many children are considered vulnerable and do not have a place they call home. Mothers with homes have requested that their children stay at the centre as their presence makes prostitution difficult and puts the children in precarious situations.
Enterprising Loreto Sisters in Timor-Leste, Aithien and Margie, are producing face masks to protect the health of locals in Gari-uai. The proceeds provide food supplies for the community.
Nyumbani Village in Kenya is a leader in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS, including orphans and vulnerable children. MWIA currently provides tertiary education scholarships for youth from the village. The village which began in 2004, supports 981 orphans and 100 grandparents and carers impacted by AIDS. With their expertise, they prepared the communities they serve for the full impact of COVID-19. To be successful, all staff, children and families served by the Nyumbani Programs, need personal protective equipment (PPE) for the duration of the COVID-19. They require more masks as additional medical needs arise, and food insecurity brings instability to the most vulnerable in the village.
MWIA’s goal in vulnerable global communities is to support disadvantaged people as the coronavirus spreads. The devastation we see in Australia is heartbreaking – families losing loved ones, whole industries crashing to a halt and long lines at Centrelink. We are grateful for the work of our leaders and government, providing stimulus and funds to lessen the impact. However, we must not forget that those situated in our MWIA global projects have no safety nets or government resources. The health, social and economic challenges faced by the worldwide community will seriously affect families living in poverty. We thank you for your support of our global MWIA projects at this crucial time.
Author: Michelle Gale
Feature Image: Loreto Rumbek students preparing to study from home.