Stay Calm and Pivot: Our response to Coronavirus

The world looks very different to the one we lived in when we had our last board meeting in January and set the strategy for The Chazuka Project. We were full of ambitious plans to grow the charity but when a global pandemic hits, it’s hard to plan past the next few weeks. This quarter’s meeting saw us reconvene in this new virtual world in which we’re living to discuss how to move forward in these challenging times. 

Stay calm and pivot

The Chazuka Project is an entirely volunteer-led charity and, like everyone, our trustees and volunteers, have all had their own COVID-19 battles to face, yet have remained passionate and committed to our cause and for this I am forever grateful.  

Our plans to grow The Chazuka School are on hold for now. In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, we are pivoting our services temporarily away from early-years education towards protecting health: the most pressing need in the community right now. 

Children of The Chazuka School learning about Coronavirus with visual aids

Lockdown & Malawi

Defeating coronavirus is a mammoth global challenge and whilst Malawi has had the opportunity to watch how wealthier countries have dealt with it, it is not a matter of simply ‘copy & pasting’ the same strategies into an African context. President Mutharika attempted to impose a lockdown on the 18th April which has been contested and now blocked by the high court. Without a socio-economic safety net, millions of Malawians fear hunger just as much as coronavirus. Social distancing is also an impossible strategy to lift from higher-income countries in part because people cannot work from home. We’ll dig further into this in our next blog. 

What measures have we taken?

The Chazuka School closed on 25th March following government guidelines. We continue to pay the salaries of the school staff as they have been redeployed to support the community response to COVID-19. All remaining school funds are being redirected in the following ways:

  1. Training & education 

Living in a rural village such as Chazuka, without access to a T.V. or radio, means that understanding of the virus is inevitably based on hearsay rather than fact & science. Sadly, this means it’s harder for people to learn how to protect themselves. Malawi also consistently battles malaria – a disease whose initial symptoms display similarly to Coronavirus, which leaves people feeling confused. This is why our in-country team & partners held training sessions with communities to dispel the myths around COVID-19. 

The sessions were held in each of the villages that form the catchment area for The Chazuka School: Khungwa, Mazimbe, Mpsalira, Makanja, Mtanga 1 and Chazuka for the children, their families and the rest of the community. During these sessions, people were able to ask questions to gain clarity on the facts around coronavirus and how they can slow its spread.  

  1. Provide soap

As COVID-19 spreads quickly across the globe, frequent handwashing is one of the most effective methods of protecting yourself. Whilst in some parts of the world, this is a familiar task, in poorer countries, it requires a significant change in human behaviour. For people living in villages such as Chazuka, where there is no soap or running water, handwashing isn’t something that is commonly practised. The Chazuka School staff have been working hard to distribute soap to the children and their families. Alongside this they have been talking to the families to give advice on correct handwashing and to explain why this is important in the face of a global pandemic. 

  1. Install hand-washing facilities in the children’s homes

Our in-country team and partners acted quickly to assist each of the 25 children and their households to build handwashing facilities in their homes. These are called tilly-taps. The team also delivered training sessions for the rest of the community on how to set-up and use the tilly-taps in the hope of encouraging people to set up their own stations in their homes. 

Teacher Grace washing hands with Ratisha (pupil from The Chazuka School)

Thank you

We know this is a troubling time for everyone and each of you will be facing your own personal battle against this virus. 

To every person who has taken the time to read this blog, donate or share our social media posts … Thank you. 

You are the reason we are able to help the people of Chazuka keep themselves safe in these impossible times. 

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