Updated: Apr 28
I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones safe, healthy and feeling well. It is encouraging that our effort to slow the virus is yielding results in many parts of the world. It hasn’t been easy. Being socially distant is quite hard on the human psyche! With that in mind, I thought it a good time to launch our inaugural newsletter and connect with all of you, our amazing Bolivia Kids community, to send a warm hello.
It's safe to say that 2020 isn’t quite what we anticipated! After a very successful fundraiser and trip to Bolivia in 2019, we had big plans in 2020 for our project in Bolivia, including building new infrastructure and expanding our programming. While we are still hopeful we’ll fully complete those plans later this year, the last several weeks has been initiation by fire as we’ve worked around the clock to adapt our programs to support families at home during quarantine. While the situation is still new and fluid, I can provide some examples of how we are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges at hand.
Tragically but not surprisingly, the pandemic is disproportionately affecting economically vulnerable populations everywhere. We’re currently focused on addressing three emerging issues.
FOOD SECURITY: Most of the families we work with earn money on a daily basis which limits their capacity to endure long periods of quarantine. Over the course of days, they would no longer be able to meet their most basic needs, like buying food.
While the centre is closed, the team at Sariry is safely delivering substantial food supplies (that were otherwise allocated for the hot lunch program) to the doorsteps of families in the community. This will support compliance with the quarantine by enabling their ability to stay safe at home.
PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT: High levels of economic stress, anxiety and a machismo culture mean many families are at risk of household violence. Spikes in child abuse and domestic violence have occurred in many countries, which the UN has identified as a growing “shadow pandemic.” Sadly, the Sariry team has responded to several instances of child abuse and gender-based violence already.
The team at Sariry has publicized information through TV, radio and social media about crisis supports that are locally available, including providing the cell phone number of Sariry’s psychologist, who has developed a crisis hotline.
EDUCATION SUPPORT: Many parents have low levels of education and are anxious about supporting their child’s continued learning at home.
The instructors at Sariry are connecting with families via cell phone to learn more about how they can remotely support learning at home. Families have asked for simple activities they can do together. Currently, families are recording legends and traditional tales, which will be collected and made into a community artefact.
On behalf of the families in the community of Tilata, the staff at Project Sariry, and Bolivia Kids, I sincerely thank-you for your incredible support and commitment. At a critical time, we’re able to respond quickly because of you. This enduring community project has cultivated so many partnerships and relationships - both locally and globally. And its the strength and quality of these relationships that is at the heart of our achievements.
In celebration of these pan-relationships, I’d like to share a current fundraising initiative with you, with the hope that you might promote the link/initiative within your networks. We’ve created three $25 virtual “gifts” that can be purchased online to commemorate special events (e.g. birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries). Half of the proceeds will go to Bolivia Kids, and half will go to a Canadian partner charity that is working towards the same objectives. We are all in this together. For any of us to be truly safe, people must be safe everywhere.
Please continue to stay healthy, safe and positive! I know that collectively, we’ll continue to make choices that will ensure our world is full of kindness and unity when we come out the other side. The reliance, compassion and grit that is being demonstrated by friends both at home and abroad makes my heart full.
President, Bolivia Kids
P.S. Be sure to follow @boliviakids on instagram for updates!