Laura Dobrowolski is the Executive Director of IAFR Canada and is looking forward to the day she can reschedule an in-person meeting with the I Live Again Uganda team.
This pandemic has impacted every part of the globe, but its impact in refugee camps has been especially challenging. Our partners at I Live Again Uganda (ILA) have continued to be present and to serve throughout this time. I interviewed them after the first wave, when everyone thought lock-downs were over. We are so very thankful for this partnership and the work they were able to continue doing throughout this tumultuous past year.
Q: At the beginning of the pandemic, countries started to close borders amid concerns of the spread of Covid. We flew IAFR staff home on extremely short notice and all our international trips were put on hold. I heard that most NGO’s left Uganda. Since your team is comprised of Ugandans, you were already home. It must have been really hard for your team! Can you tell us what happened in the refugee camp?
A: Many NGOs at the refugee settlement had to put a hold on operations. Some of them left. Others changed strategies in their services. It was a stressful and challenging time for NGOs.
Q: We know you had lots of challenges, including sickness in your team members and families, and more. What really impressed me about ILA was your ability to adapt. Can you tell me more about your response to the pandemic?
A: We gathered our leadership, prayed and considered how we can continue to serve our communities. We had to look at all the protocols and restrictions in place. We became a part of the COVID19 task force right away so that we would be aware of the situation in the communities we serve and provide our programs and services out of knowledge.
The need of washing of hands during the pandemic was essential and even mandated. Yet, many of those we serve were unable to purchase soap. We quickly recognized the need to distribute soap and sanitizer. We also provided some phone counseling.
We recognized early on that we need to reach the youth. We knew that they were being neglected. We wanted them to be knowledgeable and be safe during the pandemic.
We brought music in to bring awareness and education, to combat COVID19 and restore hope during the lockdowns. Music was a way that we could relate to the youth. The music would reach and get information out regarding pandemic protocols. It also kept us safely distanced and still providing support.
The level of teenage pregnancy increased due to the lockdown. Schools were closed. We also did radio talk shows on teenage pregnancy to bring awareness and education to the situation. We really encouraged youth to remain strong and full of hope through our programs.
Q: Did Covid spread in the camp? What was the impact of the virus there?
A: COVID19 didn’t spread in the refugee settlement. There were less than 10 cases of COVID19 in our settlement. We think the spread was stopped quickly because of restrictions and tracing of infections. The refugee community already understands that they must follow structures and rules. This understanding helped them adjust when restrictions were put in place.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add or comment on how this year has uniquely changed or impacted the work of ILA?
A: COVID19 has challenged us to rethink how we can serve in the midst of restrictions and a pandemic. Other NGOs were unable to pivot during this season. We are thankful that we were able to navigate this season and continue to provide much needed services to our communities.
June 7th Update: “Last night our President spoke, and we are now back into a 42 day lock-down. Schools closed immediately, travel between districts prohibited, curfews. Please keep us and those we serve in your prayer. Cases have risen and they are doing what they can to stop the spread.”
Please pray for the ILA Uganda team and everyone they serve.
It was hard to plan with so much uncertainty. Many of our programs were built around gathering in groups and this was not possible due to protocols and restrictions.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.