It is almost two weeks since we closed our office and moved to working remotely. During this time of lockdowns and isolation it has been amazing to see the way communities are reaching out to their most vulnerable members to help keep them safe and make sure they have everything they need. We wanted to update you on the significant steps World Jewish Relief has been taking to ensure we can continue to provide support to some of the most vulnerable people that we work with around the world.
We are particularly concerned for the older people we work with across Eastern Europe, many of whom have underlying health conditions, live in chronic poverty and have limited access to healthcare services. But the situation is moving rapidly in all 15 countries in which we work and is impacting each of them in different ways. We have now been in touch with all our 66 local partners to find out what steps they are taking to protect themselves, their staff and those they help.
Our aim is to help them adapt the programmes they’re running to cope with the changing circumstances and encourage them to find new ways we might be able to assist people affected by the virus.
Our partners who look after older Jewish people across Eastern Europe are focusing on ensuring they continue to receive care and support. Those who are bed bound, can't leave their homes and don't have any family are still be visited by Home Carers.
But with all our social programmes on hold we’re now looking at how we could use technology to keep people connected either by phone rather than face to face. It would be lovely to use messaging or video calls but very few of the older people we support have computers or are online.
However, our Livelihood programmes which gets people on track for employment has gone online where possible with virtual training and support being offered by our dedicated staff. We also realise it’s a very uncertain time for people who we have previously helped into work, many of whom are self-employed, so we’ve been in touch with our alumni to check on how they and their families are doing.
In Rwanda our agricultural programme is continuing for the moment as most farmers have a short walk to their fields but social distancing has been implemented and agricultural advice is given via whatsapp. Our vocational training courses have been put on hold.
We are aware that the people we support through our humanitarian responses are some of the most vulnerable to the spread of disease including amongst refugees and in eastern Ukraine. We’re especially keen to help partners develop services they’re already familiar with that will be in high demand such as WASH (water sanitation and hygiene) programmes. In Mozambique, Indonesia and Kenya we’re also looking at what other services we can provide including nutrition, food, cash and preventative measures.
We have been impressed by how our partners are tackling this new challenge and have already been inspired with the speed at which our STEP (Specialist Training and Employment Programme) have responded. They have ensured the refugees have access to translated versions of the UK government advice regarding the virus, they’ve taken English language classes online as well as one-to-one employment support where possible.
In order to ensure they can access these online resources and help their children with home learning, we have done an audit to ensure all the families have access to a computer and have sufficient wifi, data and accessibility requirements.
Many of the people we have helped into work are in the hospitality industry or self-employed and are at risk of, or have already, lost their jobs. It is vitally important that we adapt to the changing circumstances so we are exploring other training opportunities that will be in greater demand including as drivers, delivery workers or in supermarkets.