What a moment we are living in. The world is a different place today than it was a few weeks ago. I personally feel like every aspect of my life has been upturned. My work has changed, my kids are at home trying to make appearances in my video meetings, and I don’t know if I’ll find toilet paper on my next grocery run.
I know many of you have been impacted in much more gut-wrenching ways. Some of you have lost jobs; some have lost loved ones; others are in the medical field, trying to save lives without knowing how it could impact you or your family. It’s a confusing, scary, grief-filled season.
But if there’s one thing I’m learning in the midst of all of this, it’s that we really do need each other. We need our neighbors (near and far), and they need us too. We need to share our burdens with one another, and we also need to lift each other up with stories of hope. We need to lean in (in a social distancing approved way 😉) and remind each other that God is at work, even in the midst of something as dark and confusing as COVID-19.
In this season, part of “leaning in” means that we’re not giving up our hope. This is why I want to share some hope with you through stories from Compassion staff and sponsored children around the world. Stories that prove there is good news, even in the midst of a pandemic. I can almost guarantee you’ll smile and take a nice deep breath. Most of all, you’ll be encouraged that God is holding tight to the kiddos we all care about so much. He is moving in and through his people to care for them.
What do you say? Do you want to hear some of the most joy-sparking, hope-fortifying stories I’ve heard in the past two weeks? I mean, how can you say “no” to that?
HONDURAS: Operation Grocery Delivery
When Honduras went into lockdown due to COVID-19, over 200 Compassion-assisted child development centers had to temporarily close. In communities where malnutrition is common, many children received their only meal of the day at their child development center. Compassion staff knew they had to act quickly to ensure the children in their care had food to get them through the lockdown.
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With the help of local church partners, they came up with an emergency plan to purchase, pack and deliver groceries and other essential supplies to vulnerable families. However, executing the plan proved to be incredibly difficult. Many stores and markets had closed due to the lockdown, so buying food in bulk was near impossible. But they refused to give up. They knocked on every shop door to purchase groceries until they had 15 days’ worth of food and supplies for each family.
When they attempted to deliver groceries, they ran into yet another complication. Authorities told them they were not allowed to do so during the lockdown. But they did not back down. Staff pleaded with authorities, explaining Compassion’s humanitarian role and the jeopardy children would be placed in if they could not receive food for weeks.
Thankfully, permission was granted — and the authority came from the president of Honduras himself! With the president’s permission, and wearing protective equipment, Compassion staff members were able to deliver food and supplies to the most vulnerable children in their community. One of those children was Ivis.
“[Ivis’] grandmother broke down in tears when we delivered the groceries,” says Center Director Ninfa. “They had run out of food and had no one to turn to. I was moved to tears as well. If not for Compassion’s rapid response, Ivis and his grandmother would have been left adrift, like many others in our country.”
GUATEMALA: Face Masks Made With Love
In Guatemala, tailor Yonatan — a Compassion graduate — is making microfiber face masks to help prevent the spread of disease during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Quiché, Guatemala, protective supplies like face masks and hand sanitizer quickly sold out. The shortages inspired alumnus Yonatan Torres, who teaches tailoring at his former Compassion child development center, to take matters into his own hands.
“When we heard the news that Guatemala had its first case of COVID-19, all of the people in the community stocked up on supplies at the pharmacies. I was worried about how we could protect our lungs, so I decided to make reusable face masks,” says Yonatan.
Yonatan had been working on an order for school uniforms, but he paused this work to focus on serving others.
“My former sponsors live in Italy, and I would like to say to them, keep trusting in God,” says Yonatan. “He will take care of you. You sponsored me and today I’m praying for you because you supported me. Thanks to that support, I am helping my community today.”
MEXICO: Sponsored Children Pray for Their Sponsors in Italy
Many of you are faithful to pray for your sponsored children, but did you know they pray for you too? When sponsored children in Mexico heard how impacted their sponsors in Italy were by COVID-19, they filmed a prayer to share with them. Compassion centers in Mexico have since gone on lockdown due to COVID-19. We’ve been so inspired by the beautiful prayers of the precious children we serve.
KENYA: Inventive Hand-washing
In a small slum in Dagoretti, Kenya, access to running water is a major challenge. Since hand-washing is a key to preventing the spread of COVID-19, staff members at the Compassion center have been teaching parents how to build makeshift hand-washing stations. “It is simple, and anybody can do it. All you need is a clean, used jerry can and a nail to puncture a small hole at the bottom of the jerry can. The nail can also be used as a tap to block the flow of water when it is not in use,” says Mary, Director at a Compassion center near Dagoretti.
“I am very happy that I can now keep myself and my children safe,” says Leah, one of the moms who was helped. “We are also able to protect the children from diarrhea, worms and many other issues.”
Compassion staff members have also taught the caregivers how to make homemade hand sanitizers from glycerin and rubbing alcohol. “The demand for sanitizers really escalated and so did the prices. We have provided provisions to every beneficiary and taught them how to make sanitizers so that when water is not available, they can still be safe,” says Mary.
THE PHILIPPINES: No Building, No Problem
Compassion staff in the Philippines is getting creative with technology. They have been able to stay in touch with each child that attends a Compassion center to make sure they are well and have what they need. When they learn of a need, they are going above and beyond to find a way to meet it.
Those who are ill are being supported with medicine, vitamins and health advice. Those who are hungry are receiving food. They are also providing parents with Bibles and other spiritual materials so they can read at home during the quarantine. Even church services are still continuing as many Sunday services are now taking place via Facebook Live.
Compassion Philippines National Director Noel Pabion says staff members are working to minister creatively during this time, keeping their focus on bringing hope and calming fears.
“Any crisis is an opportunity to establish where Christ is in our lives,” says Pabiona. “Psalm 56:3 says, ‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.’”
Praise God that the church is a group of people and not a building!
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Check, Check, Check … Are You Washing Your Hands?
While the rest of the Dominican Republic was preparing to lock down, Compassion’s church partners mobilized. They knew swift action was required to educate the communities around them about how to prevent COVID-19, since many of the families they served had little knowledge of disease prevention. And they especially wanted to make sure the most vulnerable families had what they needed to get them through.
The began distributing educational pamphlets and posters to educate the community about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They even connected with local radio broadcasters so the message could reach a broader audience!
With love and care, church partners are calmly educating their communities, without creating panic or anxiety.
“Our children are calm. We’ve explained it to them in a way that they have understood the seriousness of this virus and how to prevent it, without scaring them,” says Paula, a Center Director in the Dominican Republic.
Be encouraged; God is at work. His people are still his hands and feet and they are messengers of hope, even in the midst of darkness. If you feel led to give toward the unique needs that have arisen due to COVID-19, please give to the Disaster Relief Fund. Compassion staff across the globe are working to provide medical and sanitation supplies, and are delivering emergency food and water to the most vulnerable children and their families. Your support would mean so much.
Thank you so much for your heart for children living in poverty and for “leaning in” during this difficult time. Although this season is hard, we wouldn’t want to walk through it with anyone else. Thank you for standing with the church around the world, sending every child the message, “God sees you!”
P.S. If you’d like to hear more stories of hope, join the Facebook Group Share the Good With Compassion International. In this group, members share encouraging stories, ideas for activities and prayer requests. It’s a way to be part of a community of hope, joy and positivity!
Reporting and photos by Javier Elis, Edwin Estioko, Yrahisa Mateo, Isaac Ogila, Juana Ordonez and Alejandra Zuniga.