An Urban Systems Foundation COVID-19 response team has been set up to consider ways we can provide greater support to our international partners in Peru and Uganda. The team includes our Foundation board members, Roberto Binda, Shannon McQuillan, Kris Nelson, Mercedes Braun and Lisa Bruvold.

Beyond our existing annual commitments to international initiatives, on April 15, the COVID response team agreed to transfer additional funds to the Africa Community Technical Service (ACTS) COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund. The money will be used to deliver COVID-19 kits to vulnerable populations in Uganda. The kits include soap, a jerry can, and related items to build a “tippy tap” handwashing station which allows them to wash hands with clean water (without touching the “tippy tap”).

“This is a great opportunity for us to have a significant impact in the region where we have been engaged for many years,” says Roberto.

ACTS responded with sincere gratitude: “Thank you again. This money will go to do tremendous good in a country that sits on the brink of this crisis.”

On the same day, the Foundation’s COVID-19 response team agreed to donate additional funds to Developing World Connections (DWC). This is on top of a recent redirection of funds committed to programs at San Jose Obrero school (now closed due to the pandemic) towards families in dire straits. The extra funds will help DWC provide food and water for 25 families during this pandemic.

“That’s amazing, you guys!” says Joshua Molsberry, executive director at DWC. “It is so generous. I can’t tell you how grateful we are to be working with you, Urban Systems Foundation. You are a special group of people.”

Here are some highlights received through updates and conversations with contacts in these two countries.

Connecting with individuals in Uganda

A 14-day lockdown in Uganda was extended by another 21-days as of April 16. ACTS for Water’s CEO, Jeff Golby, reports that ACTS has been asked to partner with the government on COVID-19 relief for vulnerable sectors in the region.

“We would be given special passes to join with the Sub-County Chief, and the Orphans (OVC) and widows that are vulnerable to food insecurity, in addition to doing WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] training in rural communities,” says Jeff. “On one hand, it’s hard news as we know the implications for the average person there will be tough; on the other hand, the window for us is good, and we’re grateful for the chance to partner.”

Jeff shared an inside look at how COVID-19 has affected their work in Uganda. He spoke with Tracey DeGraaf, their Director of International Programs, who asked: “I thought first of the staff: are they OK? Do they have what they need to be protected?”

ACTS has set up a COVID-19 Disaster Response Fund page if anyone feels called to donate directly.

Lisa Clark visited Uganda in 2015 and has kept in touch with some of the students whose education was supported by the Urban Systems Foundation. This includes Gerald Geros, who graduated as a nurse and is working at Mbarara Hospital. Following his medical internship, the hospital retained Gerald to work with renal/kidney dialysis and with the epilepsy clinic.

He reports: “I am one of the members on task force for fighting coronavirus in my hospital. We are trying as much as we can to stop the spread of this deadly disease.”

At the time of this conversation, they had 55 cases and no registered deaths.

“It’s hard to measure the impact of the nurses that have graduated from our program,” adds Peter Coxon. “Needless to say, Uganda would be in a more difficult position without them.”

Lisa follows ACTS on Facebook. “They have been posting video updates from Athens. She is truly dedicated and hardworking, and she has been working with ACTS since we began our partnership in 2008,” says Lisa. “Our education program would not have been the success it was without her efforts. Thank you, Urban Systems Foundation. It’s pretty impactful for me to have a personal connection to this, and see the benefit of our ongoing support in Uganda.”

“Thanks for your partnership with us. It matters so much,” says Jeff. Watch his most recent video update on what’s happening in Uganda as of April 20.

“Talk about bringing things full circle,” says Shannon. “I found it really moving to see Gerald’s face and to learn how he is helping during this crisis with the education and skills he gained with the support of the Foundation. It’s really amazing and beautiful.”

Essential supplies delivered to families in Peru

Members of our Urban Systems Foundation Peru team meet regularly and are in communication with Developing World Connections (DWC). Elias Hernandez provides an update on the current situation regarding the community we support in Peru.

“IFEJANT indicated to me that they have been able to get delivery of the care packages to the families affected by the quarantine in Lima,” says Elias. “The situation in Peru is complex to say the least. There are significant lockdown measures in place, restricting the movement of people and being enforced by the military and police, further making our contribution meaningful to those families without the ability to mobilize for employment and to obtain food and supplies.”

“Our redistribution of the current funds helps to ease the pressures facing these families during this difficult time,” continues Elias. “We are hopeful that this situation is resolved as quickly as possible and have designed our response to be dynamic based on the needs as they arise.”

The 25 families we helped are mostly those that participate in the school bus project sponsored by the Foundation. An interview of the current needs included these staples.

The government is helping with providing potable water at this time.

The families show their gratitude with handmade thank-you signs. The large centre one above says: “Gracias DWC y USF Canadá por su solidaridad con nuestras niñas y niños.” Translation: “Thank you DWC and USF [Urban Systems Foundation] Canada for your solidarity with our girls and boys.”

Expressions of gratitude were also received from the children.

“They are all so grateful and they appreciate the help,” adds Elias. “They are thinking of us as well, and send their thoughts and prayers to all of us through this difficult time.”

The Peru team intends to review this initiative on a three-month cycle, while continuing to remain in regular communication with DWC and IFEJANT contacts.

Please visit the ACTS and DWC websites to donate to their COVID-19 responses directly.