“In this unprecedented time, when everything has come to an abrupt stop, it was important that I stepped up in my responsibility of serving my children in the project,” said Martha. 

Martha has only been in the role for five months. In that short time, she has earned the trust of the children in the programme and she is helping to provide support at the critical time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the Ethiopian government announced quarantine measures, schools have been closed, employees are working from home, large gatherings are forbidden, and transportation services are functioning with half their capacity. The government’s actions impact on the activities of Compassion’s church partners, as children were ordered to stay home.  

For Martha and her team, the sudden change meant they quickly tapped into the mothers' groups they had already established as a source of information. “I always believed in forming a family structure wherever I go. When we formed the mothers' groups, the aim was to strengthen their fellowship and make it easy for us to identify their needs. With the current situation, the mothers have become our right hand,” said Martha.  

Once a week, she holds a meeting with the eight mothers who each lead a group of between 18 and 24 parents or caregivers. The group leaders bring urgent needs to Martha’s attention, discuss the children's wellbeing, and how they can better address their needs. Staying connected. 

“I’m responsible for the holistic growth of the children. I have a strong conviction that whatever I do for my own children, I should also do for the children who God has entrusted me with at the centre.”  

Martha was working hard to provide sanitary materials, rubbing alcohol, and food items when she realised the children also need something to occupy their minds at home and help them to stay connected to the centre. “This might not be a big thing, but I wanted them to know that I haven’t forgotten them, that I still care and think about their growth. The worksheet or colouring pages I sent home include questions on previous lessons. I did that because I wanted to shift their mind from the current news to thinking about the Bible stories they learned. I also wanted them to find time to sit and focus. As for the older children, I’m always connected with them through the Telegram App,” she said. Every Tuesday, Martha prepares the worksheet or colouring pages according to the lesson plan from the curriculum and prints them.  

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Even before the government announced the mandatory use of masks in public areas, Martha and her team produced and distributed cotton cloth face masks.

After meeting with the group of mothers, she distributes the papers for them to deliver to each child. Since mandatory lockdown has not yet been implemented in Ethiopia, the mothers nevertheless still take precautions as they deliver the papers to each child and collect the completed ones. Hirut, the mother of a sponsored child said, “The children are excited to work on the Bible colouring books. They remember every lesson and they can’t wait to get the next one.” Even before the government announced the mandatory use of masks in public areas, Martha and her team produced and distributed cotton cloth face masks to the children, staff, and leaders. 

“Even if children are staying home, the living conditions in most homes puts them at risk. We have caregivers who rent their houses for business during the day or rent areas in their house during the night which exposes children to various health risks. With Covid-19, we know that we should do everything we can to protect our children,” she said. Purchasing a mask would cost 30 Ethiopian Birr per child (about NZ $2), but creating their own masks cost just 4 Ethiopian Birr per mask (NZ $0.20).  
 

“The church youth volunteered to design and sew the masks and the mothers distributed the masks to the children in their group. The whole production and distribution took us four days. We made more than 300 face masks,” said Martha. Martha and her team are determined to ensure the children know that staff are always looking out for them. "I chose to stand with my children and do everything possible to see them on the other side of this pandemic. This is our ministry. People don’t forget who stood by them during their time of stress," she said. 

"As a leader, it is my responsibility to mobilise resources, bring new ideas, and delegate responsibilities to my staff and the mothers I closely work with. Things change and when they do, I want the children to feel like they haven’t missed out on anything." 

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Covid-19 will hit those in poverty the hardest. But together we can pray, take action and rise as one.

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