Views from the frontline

Over the last few days, staff on the ground having been sharing the impact of Coronavirus on children and families they’re tirelessly striving to support. Here’s a snapshot of what our teams are facing.

Screenshot of online conversation between staff

Keeping our staff and supporters updated

Recently, our CEO, Mark Waddington, shared the email below with our global staff and Trustees. In it, Mark outlines the affect Coronavirus is having on our work with children and families, and how we plan to overcome the challenges posed.

 


Subject: Important - please read 
Date: Tuesday, 17 March 2020 at 09:27:07 
From: Mark Waddington 
To: Hope Global Organisation 
CC: Trustees Email 

Fine People 

I hope that you and your families are all healthy and safe. 

These are challenging times for all of us and I hope that you are each managing in your own way to address the worries and anxieties of loved ones, and maintain peace in your own souls. 

Our values mean more to us now than at any other moment. Integrity in what we individually aspire to stand for, and courage to keep on trying to achieve that, to admit when we don’t and to forgive ourselves so that we are released to try again. The next few days and months will likely test us more than at any other time. So it will be our painstaking commitment to excellence that will see us come through it all with self-respect, with our dignity and with hope. 

My three overriding priorities now are, firstly, that we are all supported to do everything in our capability to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on children and their carers. Secondly, that organisationally we remain as resilient as we possibly can be so that I can ensure - as far as I am able to – that we will continue to support children and families long after the crisis abates. I cannot guarantee this, but I can guarantee that I will work to that end to the very best of my ability. My third priority is to position Hope and Homes for Children to emerge from this global crisis in a resilient position. Our leadership will be vital in ensuring the protection of children around the world, and others will look to us for it. 

Things have been moving quickly for us and I want to update you all on where we are in managing this pandemic. 

The impact of Coronavirus is already affecting children. We are especially concerned for three groups. 

Children in prevention programmes and those reintegrated with their families or placed in alternative forms of family and community-based care are particularly vulnerable because the direct support they rely on from social workers will be disrupted. At a time like this, these families and children need advice, encouragement and support more than ever. Many parents and carers will be unable to work and this will impact household income and subsequently food security, access to medicine, the ability to pay rent as well as in other serious ways. Our frontline teams are working hard to maintain communication with these families to offer whatever support we are able to, for example through direct cash transfers if that is possible. 

We all know that for every three months that a child under three spends in an orphanage, they lose one month of physical growth because of neglect. Many orphanage staff are now unable to work because of lock downs across the countries we work in, and so neglect will become more acute. We are already developing guidelines to support the orphanages we are working to close, and we are seeking to advise local authorities on how they can reduce this likely impact, especially on young children. 

Children with disabilities are living with underlying health conditions which make them particularly susceptible to infection and to more serious consequences if that happens. Again, we are providing advice across the local authorities we work with and to specific orphanages wherever we can. 

We have undertaken an initial assessment of the impact on children with the help of our frontline colleagues, and this will drive our action to mitigate the impact where we can. 

We are tracking the broad response of relevant national authorities in each country and we are monitoring the changing context and its impact on children nationally. 

We are formulating our advocacy response so that where governments and local authorities are in danger of making decisions that could expose children to greater threats (and we have examples of this in Kenya where the government is wanting to empty all orphanages and send children home without any preparation or support) we can advise and compel them to reconsider and take policy positions that genuinely address the best interests of the children we are working with. At a wider level we are working to ensure that the ground we have made internationally is not conceded as events like the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting are almost definitely going to be postponed. This is requiring us to reach out to other organisations to develop coordinated positions and press for family-based child care to be front and centre of the humanitarian response. 

With all this in mind I am in weekly coordination with partner organisations. We continue to Chair the multi-agency group that is pushing for the elimination of orphanages across the Commonwealth, and we are contributing a broader initiative being led by our partner, the Better Care Network, to ensure that deinstitutionalisation remains a priority in the response to the global pandemic. 

It has been inevitable that our income has been hit. Several of our fundraising events have been cancelled. Some of our funding partners have been tragically damaged by the crisis and so will be unlikely to fulfil funding commitments in support of our work. Corporate partners are unable to undertake the fundraising events they had planned to generate support for our work, and rightly so they will also be concerned about their own staff and what they can do for them. We estimate that there will be an impact on our income this year of approximately £1m. Make no mistake, this is a grievious bruising to our work with children and families. 

So what are we doing about it? 

I have convened a Coronavirus Management Team to coordinate our cross organisational response to the pandemic and pre-position us for a robust recovery. This team is at the nexus of our ability to come through this stronger whilst ensuring children and families remain supported. 

We are carefully monitoring our expenditure. 

And we are reaching out to supporters. 

For now though, it has been a source of great inspiration to me to see how so many of us have gone the extra mile to communicate via phone or video conferencing, sent an encouraging email and reached out in support of colleagues. That is our way and that is the way in which Hope and Homes for Children will navigate through this crisis as a champion of family care for children. I want to thank you all for that, and especially for the courage you have all shown. 

Mark 

Mark Waddington 
Chief Executive Officer
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