Since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chalice staff and supporters in Canada have been concerned for the safety and well-being of children, families and staff members at our sites around the world. There are undoubtedly some very challenging situations in the communities we serve, but as often happens, this crisis has brought forward acts of solidarity and compassion.
Our Baraka site, located in the rural Kenyan town of Naromoru, has several schools who cultivate their own farms to produce food for their students’ lunch program, supplemented by our nutrition program. While the main school system is closed, there are schools for children with disabilities who need to remain in care for their physiotherapy. One school in Naromoru was struggling find enough food on a daily basis. Thanks to the support of our donors, our Baraka site was able to provide rice, maize and beans left over from the school feeding programs.
At our Baraka site, construction projects are permitted to proceed as long as work sites follow public health guidelines, and so the planned construction of a school dining hall at Githero Primary school is underway. Since there is no work for most families, the site has made efforts to provide construction and other labour work for members in need. The work provides them with a daily wage with which parents can buy food and hygiene products for their families. Our Baraka site has also been working with volunteers and staff to provide sanitizers and soap to community members who cannot afford to buy any, including inmates in a local prison and the school for children with disabilities.
In Peru, the government has imposed strict measures to limit public activity. “The main problem that the poorest families and the vulnerable are experiencing hunger,” writes Gladys Fernandez, the Peru & Guatemala Country Coordinator for Chalice. With hunger comes feelings of anxiety, powerlessness, and isolation. But even though our Chalice Family Circles of parents are not able to conduct their monthly meetings, their volume of activity and electronic contact has only increased! In Chiclayo, mothers have gone into high gear, coordinating over phones to provide medicine, emotional support, direction and even just a listening ear.
The mothers have become community strongholds, not only among sponsored families but with any neighbour in need. Likewise, there are many sponsored elders at our Cañete site, for whom food security is a constant challenge, further exacerbated by pandemic conditions. In an act of true altruism, a local shop owner re-opened for the sole purpose of distributing essential groceries to these elderly citizens – even arranging for home delivery to those unable to leave their homes!
“In this time of crisis, we have experienced the true feeling of being part of the Chalice family,” says Gladys. “Accompanying each other so that we can accompany others, in mutual solidarity… With all of this, the miracle that God is facilitating through our sites is multiplying: sharing, solidarity, fraternity, hope, generosity, friendship, and thinking of the common good.”