Well all over the world right now our world is in lockdown. It may look different for each family, for each country, but never before has our world been through something like this.
Boarders closed, shops closed, people out of work, people isolated at home.... it is such a strange time to be in.
For us at Mbuyu we are not immune from this either.
I ( leah) and Rob are finding it such a hard place to be in at the moment, in Australia to have our baby around my family - but now we can't be around them.
Missing the family interaction here and having had to cancel so many of our Mbuyu fundraisers and speaking events - its like the reasons we came home - we now no longer can do..... Stuck at home for the past few weeks, as I fall into the 'at risk' category. Trying to keep two outdoor loving preschoolers happy inside is not easy, no physical contact with outside world, is not easy..... but our hearts are even heavier for our family and friends and those we work with back in Uganda. For them lockdown is even more challenging.
Uganda actually went into almost a complete lockdown, even before they had their first case of the virus. So for the past almost 3 weeks, schools have been closed, offices and businesses closed, transport closed and organisations closed.
When the government first announced the closure of schools etc - The Mbuyu Foundation fell into that category. So we have had no normal programs running for almost the month of March.
When the government announced these measures, it was hard to see just how greatly these restrictions and now lockdown were going to have on our people and those throughout the slums.
Let me help you understand what lockdown is like for those living in the slum, or even in Uganda in general.
The majority of people in the slums ( and in Uganda) survive, hand to mouth. The money they make in one day, is spent that day, to feed them that day.
The majority of people sell food items, or clothes etc in small markets or on the streets. They rely on people passing by to sell their goods. Others make and sell hot food or porridge, or tea to those working near their homes.
Now none of that is possible.
Every one is on lockdown, those businesses that are open - the workers have to sleep on site, so there are no passers by.
There are no people around to buy their goods, or who have the money to buy from them.
Families have gone from just making enough money each day to get by- to not having enough to feed themselves at all.
We have been keeping in contact over the phone with the families we work with, and this is what they have been saying,
" life was hard enough before, but we managed to sell enough to at least eat a few meals a day, now we are lucky to eat once a day"..... " before I could sell enough to feed my grandchildren, now they haven't eaten in a few days, and this is the story everywhere throughout the slums".....
" I use to sell hot food to people at night on their way home from work, but now we have a curfew at 7pm, there is no-one to buy my food, even when I manage to get it".
Many of our families, decided to go to the village to stay with family, as food is cheaper and they were concerned about having their children in the slums now school was off and with all the extra dangers and challgnes happening. Some made that decision thankfully before transport was closed, but many did not. When they shut public transport that means the majority of people have no way to get around. Everyone has to walk to get their food etc.
You can't even use a car now without the permission of the police.
For those who have gone to the village who we have had contact with, they too are suffering, as they can't make any money, and they are greatly concerned about what they will find when they come back to the slums, as many homes are being looted and crime has greatly increased.
Its not only the food people are lacking, soap is a luxury that no one can afford now, and yet it is the best defense against the virus. People live in close proximity to each other - most live in a place that is 4 x 4 mtrs and they have no indoor bathrooms or water, so still have to be in close contact with people to use restrooms ( if they can afford them) or to fetch water etc. But they don't have access to running water and soap then they get home to wash their hands...
And can you imagine being stuck inside a tiny room ( that's all that people live in) with sometimes up to 10 people, and trying to keep your kids occupied with no resources inside that room?!?
Another great concern is that it is now wet season in Uganda, and with wet seasons comes more sickness, especially for children, including malaria and dysentery. And now people are even more ill equipped to buy medicines for their children.
One of our biggest concerns has been that when we had to close our doors and bring all the kids back from school, they no longer had that place of escape, of safety..... their oasis had gone.
Now some of women are stuck at home with out of work, drunk husbands, and children are around more violence and abuse as everyone tries to cope with what is happening.
To be honest - I think closing our doors, is probably one of the hardest things we've had to do - we had no choice of course but to follow the governments orders, but knowing that we were closing our skills program, where women ( and men) are now make items and then go and sell them and gain income for their families was hard. Knowing those children who come to our creche each day would no longer be getting that nutritious meal each morning, especially the ones suffering from malnutrition.
Knowing that our reading and library had to close, an oasis for many of ours kids, and that our study and tutoring programs were ending.
Closing our facility and office and not being there each day to offer assistance when someone comes in with a sick child, a domestic violence case or when in need of emotional support has been incredibly difficult.
When the government irst closed us down, we took the measurements of our malnourished babies and toddlers from creche and provided those families with the correct porridge so that they could continue to make sure that their babies were getting the high nutritious food at least once a day. We have called and checked on all the families we are able to.
Since then the governments has now made it illegal for groups to feed the needy
(apparently some politicians were doing this, in the hope of gaining votes for the future… he president didn't like that)
So we have had to rethink how we help our people. Thankfully we have a good relationship with our local council, so we have had them accept our desire to continue to help, but now it has to be on a smaller scale. So each week, we are allowed to select 10 of our most needy families that week and provide some of the basic stables for them.
10 isn't a very big number compared to the 100s we work with, or the thousands who are in need of help. But we are grateful that we've been given permission to at least do something.
Our team continue to call and speak and see how we can help all of our families and children each week, so that if nothing else, they at least know they are not alone, nor forgotten.
So while you are stuck at home, in whatever country you are reading this in, remember that there are many others in lockdown, in situations that are much graver than yours. Many going hungry, going without medications because they no longer have money, others suffering from neglect or abuse because they have to be at home. There is no welfare packages for those suffering, no endless technology access to keep from boredom or to keep up to date with your studies, no guarantee that your landlord won't kick you out if you don't pay rent ( yes most people rent in the slums, so this is a very real possibility)
We as always can not do what we do without your support - we have seen a significant decrease in our funding over the past few months, as many of our monthly partners are being affected by the virus and loss of income and jobs, these are challenging times for everyone.
We have made the decision that every donation that comes in via our website during this time, will go to helping us support those in the slums to receive the basics to support their family.
If you wish to partner with us at this time, head to the DONATE button on our website and your donation will go to feeding providing medication at this time.
And for those of you who sponsor a child through us, we encourage you to take the time to write to your sponsor child (and email it to us) and we will do our best to get the letter to them, to encourage them during this time. And as always - if you would like to sponsor a child you can head to our sponsorship page to view the profiles.