As the pandemic keeps raging around the world, it has become more and more evident that access to distance learning is uneven, with huge disparities based on income and geography. Globally, parents struggle to fill the gap, and there is a well-founded fear that the most vulnerable children will not catch up with their learning goals. At the beginning of the Summer, AVSI-USA launched the campaign “Let’s go Back to School.” The main goal was to help our partners in Uganda, Lebanon, and Ecuador prepare vulnerable children to go back to school after almost two years of online learning. To address these and other challenges created by the pandemic, AVSI and partners have planned customized responses together with families and communities. As part of our global campaign, our donors helped us reach the following results.
On the morning of May 23, 2021, the day after Mount Nyiragongo volcano erupted, leaving 35 people dead and 30,000 displaced, AVSI’s social workers found Jean Luc, 11 years old, wandering through the city of Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with tears in his eyes.
“I don’t know, I got lost,” mumbled Jean Luc with a blank stare when the social worker asked where his parents were. “Last night, after the sky turned red, my parents grabbed my three little sisters and me, and we started running. There were too many people in the street. I fell down and never saw my family again.”
AVSI looks forward to starting this work with a new group of participants who, after 30 months, will be as resilient as Charlotte and her family. AVSI Foundation and its partners Trickle Up and IMPAQ International are grateful to the Mission Director for his visit to the project that is creating change in Kamwenge by helping participants move out of poverty and remain resilient.
On Monday, May 24, AVSI staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began assessing the damage caused by the lava spewing from Mount Nyiragongo. On Saturday, May 22, the volcano erupted at night, bringing chaos and devastation to Goma, a city of two million people. Considered one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Nyiragongo had last erupted in 2002, killing several hundred people and leaving another approximately 100,000 homeless.
On Saturday night, the last eruption took place between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM, generating a flow of lava that took a considerable speed. Before midnight, it had reached the first inhabited centers and then hit the north of Goma.
Thousands of displaced people fled to Rwanda (according to the Rwandan authorities, 7,000 displaced Congolese have crossed the border) and to the town of Sake (an estimated 25,000 people). Still, other families have gone as far as Minova, a town located 50 kilometers from Goma.
Despite the political achievement of women’s empowerment and a variety of prevention strategies, including efforts to prevent child sexual abuse, the number of adolescent pregnancies in Rwanda is still worryingly high and has been steadily increasing over the last fifteen years. Two years ago, when she was only 16 years old, Eugenie’s story became part of this sad statistic: she got pregnant after being sexually assaulted. When AVSI identified Eugene as a beneficiary of a project funded by the RASKOB Foundation to support young mothers in Rwanda, she was desperate, full of shame and guilt.
“I had no more hope for the future,” remembers Eugenie. “I felt ashamed of what had happened to me. Nobody could understand me anymore. Over and over, I was reminded of what had happened, and I felt pushed away from my family and those around me.”
On Thursday, April 29, during the CIES21 conference (April 25-May 2), AVSI participated in a panel session to present the findings and lessons learned from evaluations of the school feeding programs on reading and nutritional outcomes of primary school children in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. The two programs are funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition program that supports education, child development, and food security in low-income, food-deficit countries.
COVID-19 has not slowed the need to improve educational outcomes in East Africa. If anything, the global emergency has thrown a spotlight on learning disparities in developing nations. The educational professionals and researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda (LGIHE) – an AVSI-USA long-term partner – have been working for over a decade to promote teaching methods that unlock the full potential of each learner. “School leaders and teachers are the linchpin to the radical change needed to ignite self-awareness and critical thinking in learners,” said Mauro Giacomazzi, Institutional Development Advisor for LGIHE.
When they were one and a half years old, Moreen and Doreen were so small, frail, sick, and tired that they could barely sit up on their own. The twins’ chance of survival was alarmingly low.
Scovia Arinaitwe, their mother had experienced firsthand how quickly a child’s health can turn, but she did not realize what the cause might be. Florence Kabacwa, USAID Graduating to Resilience Activity nutrition coach took one look at the twins and knew what the problem was: malnutrition. As part of the USAID-funded Activity, thousands of families are visited by AVSI Foundation coaches in South Western Uganda every day.
AVSI Uganda staff members Arinda John Bosco and Ruth Ninsiima, were selected as SCALE Facilitators of the Year (2020), while Graduating to Resilience Activity received the SCALE’s Creative Adaptation Award for Strongest COVID-19 Innovations.
Alice’s favorite time of the day is sunset. She and her husband wait for their six children to come back from school. They sit together around a cup of tea and talk about their day. But Alice’s routine was not always so pleasant. Before joining AVSI’s Better Outcomes project, returning home at sunset was a nightmare. Everything she earned would be spent on alcohol by Robinson, her husband, leaving nothing to buy food for their children. When she tried to talk with Robinson, he would inevitably raise his hand at her.
“It was draining,” remembers Alice. “I couldn’t bear seeing my children starving.”