COVID-19 has overturned our world, contorting our best efforts to adjust to this unpredictable threat.
These are not normal times. In fact, it is too early to know what the "new normal" could possibly be.
BUT, there are some expert teachers around us in these unnormal times. In Jordan, Syrian refugees have 8 years of the not-normal. Homes gone, friends lost, education evaporated. And Jordanian girls and boys who work for a couple of dollars a day, who go to bed hungry every night – never enough money or food.
They have taught us so much more than we ever could have taught them! They, in their vulnerability and in their resilience, are our examples, our heroes. Here are some of the things we are doing with them or because of them in Jordan and Syria.
In Amman, we provide hygiene kits and how and why to wash hands over and over, to "do" social distance, to cover your cough, not to shake hands – and hundreds of whatsapp messages from youth to explain how staying at home keeps the spread of the virus down, down, down.
We have provided non-contact, forehead thermometers for first responders to cases of domestic violence and young juveniles in trouble – as part of the Covid-19 priorities of Jordanian public services. And 500 face masks for them.
It took only 4 days for our non-formal education program to operate fully on whatsapp and facebook platforms and keep those youth from losing their chance for an education with a certificate at the end. We also now assist other organizations to improve learning-on-line with the Ministry of Education.
We work closely with UN agencies like UNICEF and with USAID to implement mitigation strategies as people face the consequences of both coronavirus and lack of income – as circumstances on the ground evolve rapidly.
The Zaatari Refugee Camp is under tight containment except for a very limited number of agencies like Questscope. No virus yet here or in Azraq camp - youth still write poetry, practice English, check out books from the electronic library, share information on COVID-19, and mentor each other (socially distant, of course!).
In our Aqaba program, families received food vouchers a month in advance to ensure access to food without disruption. Daily labor is now stopped, so daily income stops. We constantly seek out those at most risk to help, especially infants under 2.
In Syria, preparation with our national partner for the arrival of the pandemic is underway: training volunteers in personal protective hygiene; starting factories to make face masks and hand sanitizer; ensuring access to cell phone messages and DVD clips in a country with very limited internet connectivity. The World Health Organization is taking the lead in pandemic preparation, and we will cooperate with them in all governorates of the country.
More and more opportunities to urgently serve pour into our team everyday. We stand with the least of these, putting the last first, and together as part of the global community – each one doing our part – we will rise above this adversity. That is what we do.
Dr. Curt Rhodes
Founder & International Director
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