2020 may not have been the year we dreamed of, nor did we see it coming. But it will most certainly be one we will never forget. Everyone around the world had to re-adjust to a new way of life. Millions lost their livelihoods and shelter, struggling to make ends meet; millions lost their loved ones. We at AVSI have also lost one of our dear colleagues and friends.
Alice Umutoni was 19 years old when violence spiked in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was home with her family when the neighbors began to scream. Within minutes, they heard more gunshots than they could count. Scared, they started to run in different directions. There was no time to pack and rescue belongings. One of the neighbors had to carry Alice to safety after finding her unconscious. Her family was nowhere to be found. Away from her loved one for the first time, she was surrounded by strangers who had already chosen their next destination: Kenya.
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.”
Charlotte Bahati, 36 years old, is scaling up her business. Thanks to the training received from AVSI Foundation, in a few months, she has gone from selling only silverfish to harvesting a more considerable amount of crops, and a new poultry farm. Charlotte can now raise a healthy family and is letting go of her past marred by huge losses after she fled her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
AVSI is monitoring the continued development of the coronavirus pandemic in countries where we operate. We are aware of risks that local populations will face, especially having limited access to precarious health systems and already struggling with poverty, hunger, and conflict. AVSI staff continues to accompany our beneficiaries, following safety regulations implemented in each country. We are doing everything we can to ensure minimal interruption of our initiatives, which many people need even more right now. Below are some testimonials we have received from colleagues, who like all of us, have to adapt, be creative, and remain hopeful during these difficult times.
AVSI Foundation joined the Ugandan Ministry of Health and its partners to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week, an annual celebration which is held every year from 1 to 7 August. In various parts of the country and through the different projects and activities that we implement, AVSI Foundation held activities such as mini-community dialogues, radio talk shows, and food and cooking demonstrations. Using social media posts, AVSI Uganda also reminded mothers to breastfeed and prompted communities, employers, leaders, and husbands to support mothers on this noble task of breastfeeding for a healthier nation.
Studies show that school closure during COVID-19 has adverse effects on children and adolescents. Young people are anxious and worried that they will never go back to school. Bernadetta Anieno, 18 years old, is no exception.
“They kept postponing the reopening, and I was losing hope,” remembers Bernadetta, who has been studying at AVSI long-term partner Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala, Uganda, since 2019. “I was just home doing nothing, not even reading. One day, I asked myself what I would become if I kept being home just watching TV?”
In early February 2020, during our second theory of change workshop, a team member asked if we needed to consider coronavirus in our assumptions. She was quickly dismissed as participants asked, “Is coronavirus in Uganda?” “Is it posing a threat to our communities?” One month later, on 17 March, Activity leadership provided guidance to field staff to be sure accurate and consistent messaging about COVID-19 was reaching all employees and subsequently, all participants.
When the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Uganda, forcing the Government to close business and schools, some beneficiaries of AVSI’s Graduating to Resilience Activity thought that the project funded by the Office of Food for Peace, USAID was going to be canceled. AVSI’s Community Based Trainer Jackson Ninkusima brought them hope.