In Sri Lanka, ChildFund New Zealand works in the area of Batticaloa, where COVID-19 has impacted our work significantly. Many of the planned activities we had were placed on hold in order to address the immediate needs following the onset of the pandemic.
A nation-wide lockdown restricted access to some of our programme areas and, unlike some of the other communities where ChildFund works, access to mobile phones is limited in Batticaloa. This has provided an additional communications challenge for our team in Sri Lanka.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ChildFund Sri Lanka has been able to provide support for children, youth and families, thanks to the generous support of New Zealand child sponsors and donors.
Providing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Batticaloa...
In densely populated communities, social distancing can be very challenging. To help contain the spread of COVID-19, it has been recommended to wear a mask. Yet, access to face masks isn’t available to everyone in the Batticaloa area.
To address this, ChildFund has been distributing face masks, and has already provided 6,000 face masks to 30 schools (every school in the area), helping children and teachers to keep safe while learning.
Improving nutrition and hygiene practices for parents and caregivers...
In collaboration with the Batticaloa Regional Director of Health Services, ChildFund developed 10 nutrition messages which were shared with a lead mothers group using mobile phones and small group discussions. The lead mothers then shared the information with 500 parents and caregivers in Batticaloa, which will benefit more than 300 children and youth.
For most of us in New Zealand, washing our hands is as simple as turning on the tap. However, in Batticaloa, access to safe water is very challenging. People must travel long distances to collect water and take it home for the day. Imagine how challenging it would be in a nation-wide lockdown!
However, thanks to the support of our Kiwi sponsors, ChildFund Sri Lanka was able to improve the ability for children and family members to safely wash their hands close to home by distributing handwashing units to 20 preschools and eight health clinics.
Prioritising education for children in the Batticaloa sponsorship area... In 2020, nearly 2,000 children were provided with educational materials, along with worksheets and books to improve learning. Teachers were trained on improved curriculum, and parents were given training as well.
In addition, two early childhood development centres were renovated in 2020, including access to safe water, new toilets and playgrounds for children. After the renovation was completed, the schools inspired several parents to enroll their children, who had never taken them to school in the previous condition.
Encouraging youth to continue their career plans when things get difficult...
An extremely difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is the long-term negative impacts it will have on the communities where ChildFund works. Many families are being forced to decide how they will survive without a regular income, now that markets are closed and travel is restricted. Youth who were in the child sponsorship programme have been dropping out of school to go find work. Often, this type of work can be very dangerous.
In addition to providing families with financial support at this difficult time, ChildFund is working to encourage young people to keep focused on their futures. Using in-person and online technology, we have been able to reach more than 700 youth with career counselling sessions, which are helping to keep them motivated and focused on finishing school.