The World Health Organization has now recorded more than 10 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with over half a million deaths. The Salvation Army continues to provide support as communities grapple with the realities of bereavement, economic disruption, hunger and the constant threat of disease.
Hygiene, food and warmth
The Salvation Army in The Philippines is making a practical difference in public health provision by supplying hygiene kits and cleaning supplies to quarantine facilities in and around Manila, including requisitioned sports centers and other public buildings. The supplies include antibacterial soap, alcohol-based hand gel, detergent, bleach, health information leaflets and bags.
In northern India, significant feeding operations are underway, along with public health messaging and sanitizer distribution. The Salvation Army’s territorial headquarters team in New Delhi received phone calls from migrant laborers trapped at a construction site at Gautam Nagar, who had had no food for two days. The local authorities requested The Salvation Army to help them by providing sustenance, and the team was able to respond immediately.
The Salvation Army in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been helping supply nutritious food to individuals and families in neighbouring Lesotho. Food parcels have been distributed where the need is greatest in both countries.
Elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, as winter draws closer and the economic elements of the coronavirus crisis become clearer, The Salvation Army in Australia has developed the “coat tree.” The Gold Coast town of Southport now has a number of trees sporting unusual “fruit”—warm coats. Anyone sleeping outdoors or simply in need of warmth can take a coat for free. From an initial supply of 30 garments, the trees’ supplies are topped up from Salvos Stores. Coat trees are now also springing up in New South Wales.
In the United Kingdom, The Salvation Army’s Employment Plus service has directed attention to unemployment resulting from COVID-19. The service is warning that unemployment will rise so fast that job centers won’t be able to keep up and many job seekers will be left behind.
“The odds were already stacked against vulnerable people finding work, and we are worried that some people could be locked out of the jobs market for years,” said Rebecca Keating, Director of the Employment Plus service, which specializes in helping people find work.
One person helped by the service said: “When COVID-19 happened I was in full-time employment and it was my ideal job but by the third extension of lockdown my employers decided to let me go. I was so worried about what was going to happen financially. However, I contacted The Salvation Army and after speaking to my advisor he found me a vacancy with the COVID-19 track and trace team. I now feel I’m making a difference again, not only to my family but to people affected by the coronavirus.”
The Salvation Army’s international Schools and Education unit based at International Headquarters in London has developed advice on the safe reopening of schools. With regulations and COVID-19 advice varying from country to country, some of The Salvation Army’s thousands of schools have managed to continue providing education.
This new advice offers support on how to assess the capacity of schools where physical distancing is required, along with details on how to ensure adequate hygiene provision. The framework also takes school leaders through issues such as planning reopenings or initiating altered provision of services, as well as advising on the training and support of teaching and ancillary staff and communicating changes effectively to pupils, parents and local authorities.
In some cases this will require a change to online learning, such as at The Salvation Army’s Azam School in Karachi, Pakistan and in The Philippines. Other options are underway, including in Guatemala, which is one of many countries where teachers at rural schools are making difficult journeys to provide lesson materials to pupils. In urban settings, teachers are using WhatsApp to communicate with parents and teach pupils who have no access to laptops or home computers. In Liberia, students are receiving online lessons, while water and sanitation preparations are being made for the return to school.
Drama and music
Back in Australia, with theaters and performing arts venues still closed, The Salvation Army has hit on a brand-new idea—the virtual musical. “Three Bags Unpacked” is based on the biblical story of the prodigal son, and is the brainchild of Melbourne-based worship arts coordinator for The Salvation Army, Julia Roper. As reported by others.org.au, the initiative will involve numerous 15- to 30-year-old performers participating from around the nation. The young stars will record their singing, acting, playing and dancing on their mobile telephones, tablets, cameras, desktop computers or other electronic means to be mixed together to produce the virtual musical.
“This virtual movie musical will be a unique way for our youth and young adults to connect with old friends and make new ones while being part of this fantastic musical theater experience,” said Roper and her counterpart in Brisbane, Louise Mathieson, who together have been reviewing recordings submitted from every state. Mathieson said it had taken the isolation regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic to “show this is possible.”
“We probably would never have thought of it if we hadn’t been forced into a situation where we can’t travel or get hundreds of kids together in a space,” she said. “So, although there is an intense amount of work involved, this is a really good alternative to still be inclusive and flexible. I think what’s exciting for all of us is the collaborative aspect of it.”
From The Salvation Army International