“Coronavirus is a new sickness which enters into our body when we go outside of our home. It is smaller than ants which we can’t see. We have to frequently wash our hands and keep our surroundings clean to protect ourselves”, says 7 years old child from SOS Children’s Village Dhangadhi.
He further adds, “Therefore, I stay inside and enjoy my favorite cartoon. My brothers and sisters are also with me. We play different games together. I don’t need to worry about my home assignment. I am enjoying it”.
After the global spread of COVID-19, schools are closed, excursion and visits are cancelled, gates of the Children’s Villages are locked which means no one can enter or go out except in case of emergency. The government of Nepal has announced an unprecedented lockdown to halt the spread of the Coronavirus.
In these times of crisis, children are utilizing their free time in meaningful ways. Children’s Villages are providing age-appropriate activities for children to keep them active and engaged.
“Children are confined in a home due to COVID-19. I have talked with my children about this. They are doing fine and making their time productive. We have stocked food for two months. This shutdown has helped us to enhance our interaction. However, sometimes, it is also a challenge to make children involve in one activity,” says an SOS Mother Basu Mati Katwal from SOS Children’s Village Dhangadhi.
“In such a situation, I encourage them to continue to play, involve in creative activities and interact with brothers and sisters. We read, play, cook and dine together. We have set two hours study time. I have also downloaded spelling, numerical, IQ related application for preprimary level children. I let them practice offline. There are so many things to do together and make it memorable,” adds Ms. Katwal.
After completing final annual examinations, schools are shut down. The new academic session begins after Nepali New Year (Mid-April), however, there is a predication that the lockdown would go longer. In such a situation, yoga, dance, drawing, language class, fun games, listening stories, watching live drama, playing indoor games like chess, ludo, carom board, word game has been a part of the children’s and mother’s daily life.
“We are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of the children, young people, SOS mothers and aunts. This is the challenging time as well as an opportunity to learn to face difficult time. I am residential staff and most of the colleagues are doing office work from home. This has given a real flavor of being responsible guardian of the big extended family. Children, mothers and aunts are happy and under-taking more responsibilities these days. There is a good attachment among the family members which has given a real sense of belongingness,” explains Mr. Padam Hamal, Project Director of SOS Children’s Village Dhangadhi.
He further adds, “We have different activities for children and SOS Mothers to keep them free from any kinds of stress. Apart from these, we are concerned about the mental health of the children. We are providing psychological first aid to the children through the support of our counselors via mobile phone. Similarly, if in case lockdown would extend, I have talked to school principal for online course for the children who have internet access. Principal is positive and working on it”.
SOS Children’s Villages Nepal has been orientating the children, young people, SOS mothers, aunts and coworkers regarding COVID-19 and its preventive measures. Similarly, National Management Team meeting takes place at least once a week to share issues and concerns of SOS Mothers and Caregivers and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in all programmes in order to ensure the safety of the children and young people. We are also strongly adhering the advisories by our organization and the Government of Nepal and Local Government.
Providing support in the difficult times
Story of a caregiver from Family Strengthening Programme
“I work as a labour in a grocery shop. My main work is to clean and pack varieties of lentils, beans and grams in different weight. Sometimes, I also work in a construction sites as a daily wage labour. However, due to lockdown I am not able to go for a work”, says Ms. Samjhana Gautam, a single mother of two children.
Samjhana lives in a rented one room with her children in Banepa almost 25 Kilometer east from the capital Kathmandu. She has 10 years daughter and 8 years son. Both of them are studying in five and three classes respectively in a private school with the support from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal through Family Strengthening programme.
“Depending on the work, I have a monthly income of 8/10 thousand. With the money I earn, I pay 25 hundred for my rent. Similarly, rest I use for food and other daily expanses. Since, we are living in a single room with a limited space, mostly it is challenging for me to make my children stay inside. They want to go out and play. However, I don’t let them go out. I have told them that Coronavirus is a dirty virus, if we go outside, it will catch us and make us sick. They stay and watch cartoon in television”, adds Samjhana.
The Children and families in Family Strengthening Programme, who are already vulnerable, have faced problems with basic needs and emotional wellbeing during COVID-19 Pandemic. Therefore, SOS Children’s Villages Nepal has been connecting with the caregivers of FS programmes via mobile phones to know the current situation and provide emotional support during these difficult times.
“Everybody is locked inside without a movement. The announcement, just a night before the lockdown has effected the working poor people like me. Due to which, I was not even able to collect my work wage from the contractor. Now, I am left with very little savings. I am afraid to run out of money and food if it continues for a longer time. I feel like nobody cares for us. Nobody had asked about us before your telephone call. However, I received your call to know the current situation of my family. Thank you for your concern in this difficult time,” shares Samjhana.
SOS Children’s Villages Nepal has been providing orientation to the coworkers of Family Strengthening programme to raise awareness in the programme locations. Similarly, we have been coordinating with the ward office village ward of the FS programme locations to provide sanitation materials to families of the community, ward office, health post, Key Implementing Partner (KIP) office. Likewise, the social workers from the locations have suggested families to practice good personal hygiene, follow preventive measures as instructed by the Government of Nepal, consult healthcare for any kinds of symptoms and maintain social distancing.
“The country is in lockdown after the outbreak of the COVID-19 that has created unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable. We are communicating with Family Strengthening and Kinship Care families who are already vulnerable, to provide emotional support in such emergency scenario for the safety and wellbeing of the children. We are also coordinating with the local government in the locations to provide food support to the families who are suffering from food and security to ensure that no child is deprived of care, food and security due to current situations”, says Mr. Gopal Prasad Ghimire, Director-Family Strengthening Programme, Kinship care and EP programme from SOS Children’s Villages Nepal.