Things are changing so fast.
I was on a call yesterday with a longterm partner and dear friend, Father Alex Busuttil. In addition to discussing our shared programs and strategies for future fundraising, we talked about the new social order that’s unfolding right before our eyes.
Father Alex spoke about building new structures in his life and work. He talked about the challenges he is facing in reaching the thousands of people in his Parish and the hundreds of people in his programs.Talking to Father Alex and considering the messages I’ve been receiving from our team on the ground – it seems clear that over the past couple of days things are getting progressively more and more worrisome for the many people who are in our programs and projects.
For people living in the experience of extreme poverty with a child (or children) living with a disability or medically fragile condition – life is extremely challenging at baseline. Now, in the dystopian world that is the COVID-19 pandemic – things are becoming overwhelming.
We are working hard to support the families in our Ines Project. In places where they live – the pueblos jovenes invasion communities of the major cities of Perú – access to water is a big issue. Not having basic food supplies in the homes is a tremendous challenge. We’re working to mobilize our partnerships to ensure the people in our programs have access to the basic items and resources they need to implement a prevention protocol under their unique circumstances.
We’re also working to assure public health messaging is culturally sensitive and appropriate to their unique needs of the people we serve. We’re distributing messages that help families consider how they can use a bucket system to wash their hands. We’re providing handouts that outline clear instructions on how they can make inexpensive home sanitizing solutions. We’re working with mothers to consider ways they can creatively keep their children engaged in learning while under a home quarantine with a lack of access to the internet. We’re working hard to expand the message of prevention for the novel-coronavirus that is inclusive to underserved and marginalized members of society.
This leads me to a very important point – there is so much conversation about staying home and avoiding contact . . . but what about people living in the experience of extreme poverty? What about people who work in the informal sector and only make money when they can physically go to a job? This is a particularly challenging time for them. And, although the Peruvian government is doing everything they can to ensure underserved communities have access to a basic income through the bonus program the Vizcarra Administration instituted, it is not enough. We must not forget the most vulnerable, the underserved and the fragile members of our societies. We must assure they are not alone. We must ensure they are not forgotten.
No one has a crystal ball and can predict how long this challenge will be upon us. It may be weeks. It may be months. However long it goes on, the more people living in the experience of extreme poverty and working in the informal sector of the economy are separated from work – the harder it will be for them to survive. We must band together to mobilize all segments of our “helping society” to build a safety net for the marginalized and underserved.
Science is working very hard to find treatments and develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. Until the time that the science is prepared to roll-out a community vaccination program – we are the vaccine. Our efforts to support one another will be the greatest protection to combat loneliness, provide for the common good, and promote solidarity in this time of great struggle. We must be the vaccine humanity needs.