Join Us in Crowdfunding to Feed Our Neighbors
by Pamela Mukaire, USA Executive Director
RIBHO’s COVID-19 Response Summary
On March 18th, 2020 the Uganda government ordered a lockdown. No travel. No movement. These necessary safety precautions have weaved complex changes and new ways of doing life as our communities grapple with the realities of our current times.
Below is a brief timeline synopsis of RIBHO’s response in lending our support, or simply being present to our families, friends and neighbors, no doubt working through several copying strategies daily.
June 8th, 2020
An Open Invitation To You: Feed a Family for $45 a Month and Facilitate the Sewing of a 65 cent Face Mask
May 7th, 2020
50 days (7 weeks) into the lockdown, food remains one of the most pressing needs in our local communities. The majority of our people worked as daily-wage laborers. They are currently experiencing dwindling means of buy food. Essentially, we have a looming humanitarian crisis in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
We continue to plan and work on stocking our food pantry for the weeks to come. Many will continue to struggle with feeding their families as resources dwindle.
Our plan this year is to expand our feeding program to include 15 new villages with sizeable vulnerable populations. The plan is to reach out to 500 families in these during this difficult time.
While the government has put in place programs to provide for those living below the poverty line, a lot of this gets lost in the red tape. All ready much corruption has been televised as local leaders use this money for themselves and it doesn’t really reach the people who need it the most.
Working with our local partners and volunteer teams, we have identified the most vulnerable families in these villages to include: people living with multiple chronic illnesses, infants and young children in food insecure homes, the elderly and widowed, people with disabilities, palliative care patients, single parent and child headed households.
To prevent a looming sizable humanitarian crisis within this COVID-19 epidemic, providing basic supplies to these families is of high priority. We are currently fundraising, in the hope to provide these families with staple food at least one month until other local authority plans emerge to put and keep food on these family tables.
Our local staff and local partners continue to train in risk emergency communication and will continue to with messages of encouragement, as well as link people to much needed community resources. We are also working at securing more fabric for our local women tailors, lead by Ms. Naume Biribawa, to sew more masks for about $65 cents each.
The food packages of corn flour, rice, soya flour, red beans, salt, sugar and soap cost $45 per family, and should feed them for a month.
Please help us fundraise and pray that God blesses this effort and raises the hope of many families looking to His goodness in this time.
Reaching out to isolated food insecure patients
As hunger experience worsens this May, we have prepared motorcycle food deliveries for our patients with HIV/AIDS and those older than 65 years, experiencing severe food shortages. We have planned to distribute dry goods (red beans, rice, corn flour, soy flour, sugar, and oil) hygienic kits (face mask, bathing and washing soaps, bleach) and multivitamins for at least 50 families in near to reach locations.
This is being done through the support of the village health workers with trusted boda boda (motorcyclist) colleagues we can count on to safely deliver the food to these select homesteads. Our donations have been at their lowest with each month since March. Nonetheless, we have a hopeful expectation that our income to buy more food and transport food to more families will drastically increase in a few days’ time, to allow us to meet these needs.
Our Father God has promised an increase of grace for grace to meet our increasing needs through His all surpassing greatness (John 1:16). We therefore remain confident that as this month presents financially tough decisions for our home patients, we will experience God’s goodness all the more. After all, it is only the truth, that He has more than demonstrated His commitment to His people in the forever potent sacrifice of His Son Christ Jesus for us, and for our salvation. We are therefore not ashamed to present His with our expectant excitement, in full joy that He will stabilize us during these difficult times as He has promised (Hebrews 6:19).
Please prayerfully hope in grand expectation with us, and let us watch God beautifully come through for us, and those He has caused us to love well in service.
Phone Line – “Please tell us how you are doing.”
Provided with weekly airtime, and situated in their homes, are volunteers are equipped with phones, basic greeting and check-in scripts and an encouraging message to share with callers. This team is made up of RIBHO’s core volunteers, and local pastors of our partner churches in Eastern and Northern Uganda, and school teachers.
Each team member is tasked with making weekly calls to check in with their first circle of responsibility and care – beginning with family members, congregants, patients, workmates, parents and more.
Minimally trained in mental health support, this dedicated team is learning as they along, like many of us. Our rapid community needs assessment thus far indicates that the top two issues at the individual and household level are 1) worry about food and daily sustenance, and 2) anxiety related to current and near future livelihood to include income, employment, and a return to normalcy (“How will things be post the COVID-19 lockdown, and will we ever be able to return to normal?”).
Our call team is aware that we are far from the answers to any of these sacred concerns and aired fears. Our best work is to listen with matched care and presence.
In both regions, Eastern and Northern Uganda, we felt lead by God’s wisdom, to first, demonstrate this caring presence to our own volunteers, pastors, and other community leaders who have served alongside us in the past 5 years of our ministry. Back in April we reached out to a few of our partners in Jinja district, to serve them. We have are working on slowly expanding this reach to our fellow service men in all 7 districts of work sites – this includes central, eastern and northern Uganda regions.
Select members of our core volunteer team were tasked with reaching out to all our other volunteers local partners (past and current) with several goals in mind:
- Checking in on their current wellbeing status
- Understanding their current personal and service needs
- Responding to those needs the best we can.
Thus far, this team of service personnel appreciate being looked in on, and being supported to continue having a meaningful presence to the 100s of people they serve. You see, they are accustomed to serving others and are rarely served themselves.
Their immediate needs and requests are:
- Basic food supplies for those in dire need
- Airtime to continue a digital care presence through making direct calls or daily text messaging to their patients, congregants, colleagues, and local community partners
- COVID-19 prevention and control up-to-date information
- Risk communication education
- Training on addressing mental health needs in crisis
We have been able to respond to these needs within the current budget resources.
- Provided money to buy groceries
- Facilitated safe boda boda transportation to ensure food gets to the households that need it.
- Provided local pastors and other local leaders with weekly bundles of airtime and or text messaging to enable them to stay in touch with their constituents each week.
- Consolidated and simplified COVID-19 prevention information from several credible websites like WHO, CDC, UNICEF, Queens Australia into basic information scripts what we share with our local leaders via WhatsApp
- Offered COVID-19 emergency response education certificate courses to include: 1) Digital Pastoral care, 2) Risk and emergency communication, 3) Mental health management in crisis, and 4) Faith based response to COVID-19
We continue to serve in gratitude to those who have committed to supporting our work through this time. Your giving makes it possible for us to stay open, and to constantly evolve in ways that allow us to be relevant and effective in this time.
Building a Virtual Mental Health Call Center
“We are RIBHO volunteers and Dr. Mukaire called one evening Uganda time and said, “You three are now designated as a COVID-19 comforter callers. You have done basic mental health training before. We will build on that by teaching you some very basic but critical crisis communication skills, provide you with scripts, airtime, and the rest is your sweet smile and re-assuring voice on the other end of the line.” And that was about it. We started by completing three certificate courses that she designed for us – one on COVID-19 facts and two on mental health and communication in crisis. We then got our call scripts and airtime. For the first week, the goal was to practice by making casual greeting calls to our family and friends in our phone contact list. With this practice and confidence, we were have provided with RIBHO 2015 to 2020 client, participant and partner call lists. We start with sending a simple message introducing ourselves and requesting for a 4 minute call. If the person says yes, then we call and ask them how they are doing. From that point on, we follow the script and our hearts and intuition to carry on and compete the call. If they have serious issues like suicide, we note this down and Dr. Mukaire follows-up with them. In Uganda we do not have those mental health services like other countries, and even the ones currently available, a lot of people do not know they exist or do not trust them. It has a great learning and serving time, and we are still learning. It was scary at first and strange, but then you realize, its is all about the other person on the line, that you are showing care. Your only job is to initiate the conversation and then be present. We are in regular contact with Dr. Mukaire on whatsapp, and that helps a lot. I thank God for this opportunity.” – Emmanuel Kasomba
Inspiring Others to Care
April 12th, 2020
Anointed Tower Church, Kyamagwa
A true vision is one that inspires others into action. For the past two years, members of this local church have been recipients of RIBHO food and medical projects. A number of young people from this church have also served their community alongside RIBHO. This April however, something beautiful happened. Compelled by love and inspired by RIBHO two year service foot print in their local community, the leaders of this local church dug deep into their pockets, and did a great job reaching the needy with much-needed food. This leadership has done similar small scale ministry for their congregants in the past. So what was special about their April actions? It was a great step of faith to give their largest donation, reach more and encourage others to do their bit during this unprecedented time in our history, when logic dictates saving everything for one’s own near future needs. In these days of COVID-19 the best giving resides from within our hearts.
Food Distribution of a Special Kind
Why April’s food distribution has been so different and very personal..
Given public transportation challenges and safety measures for COVID-19 prevention, we are not able to reach all our patients and clients with the monthly needed food baskets.
So, we focused on meeting the basic essential household needs of our volunteers and pastors who have faithfully given two years of unpaid service to our ministry in their communities. It was a joy for us to minister to our nurses who offer free clinic services to our patients, and local church pastors who often do not raise more than $50 of tithes/offerings most Sundays.
Our nurses, volunteers and pastors have given so much of their time and talents, often with lean resources and significant financial challenges of their own. Left unaddressed, these challenges can significantly impair and hinder their ability to lead and serve those who need them, particularly during this unprecedented time of COVID-19.
We are grateful to those who made these gifts possible with their donations.
Home School Resources
Another blessed morning as opportunity strikes. A while ago we purchased coloring books and pencils for several age groups to use while attending our mobile clinics. The February, our friends in Washington D.C generously added to our art supplies collection for our Secondary School Science Youth Clubs. We were able to get these resources in country just in time for the lock down. Yesterday two parents casually asked our volunteers if we by an chance had reading books or anything educational to keep the children and youth busy during lock down. We were only to happy to share these resources, and we continue to marvel at God’s faithfulness – who would lead us to purchase lots of colors, pens, crossword puzzles, and coloring books, and travel with a suitcase full of them to rural Uganda …just in time to meet the childcare needs to parents.
As schools and day care centers remain closed, we anticipate that many primary caretakers (parents and grandparents alike) will have to get a lot creative, managing home education, child care and entertainment.
Our prayers and admiration go out to those tasked with educating and keeping our youngling’s safe and emotionally healthy during this time.
Supplying the first of our masks, and more to families in need
This morning we shared their first of our face masks, gloves and thermometers to families with elderly who have recently been ill with bronchitis. One grandmother over 65 years old, caring for her grandchildren reached out to us, asking for these resources. So glad that our emergency preparedness efforts are already paying off, we supplied her with enough face masks and gloves to share with other families that she has mobilized and assessed as prime recipients of these resources. Having just recovered from a month of severe bronchitis, she was concerned that she is very vulnerable to COVID-19, and rightly so. Turns out, her grandchildren were out to visit with her when the COVID-19 lock down was announced with immediate effect, catching her unaware, unprepared and with no immediate means of transportation for the 60 kilometer trip to return her grandchildren back to their parents.
The World Health Organization recommends that people should wear a face mask if they’re sick. We are going a little bit further and providing masks for older adults and patients with HIV/AIDS and TB, and recommending that they wear these face masks when going to crowded places.
Like this wonderful grandmother, these groups of people face the highest risk of a more severe infection should they get infected with COVID-19, the group that we need to care for the most, and to protect.
As health experts continue to explore the effectiveness of homemade masks, for this 65 year old grandmother caring for three energetic grandchildren who simply must go outdoors from time to time, the choice between staying indoors and going outdoors for a short walk with a homemade mask is clear cut.
This grandmother is seeking the safest way to protect herself and her grandchildren against getting infected, and as a community resource organization, we couldn’t be more glad to provide her with the best possible options for now.
We continue stitching our own PPE including masks using 100% cotton and other fabric we bought from local stores before the total lockdown. Currently, we have a limited number of face masks but happy to distribute them as needed.
Even though our communities are still low risk, the goal is to get people used to wearing face masks when away from their home, if nothing else, to practice this safety precaution as often as possible.
Setting up our first ever calling center
We are also swiftly working to address the COVID-19 new challenges of isolation, panic, fear, and frustration.
Currently we have 19 callers providing our patients, their families and community members with trusted information and support to help everyone’s mental health and well-being during this pandemic. In addition to terminal and or other chronic illnesses, our already vulnerable patients are extremely stressed, worried, anxious and fearful about COVID-19. The isolation of course is making it that much harder for our volunteers to physically continue the household visits.
You can help by donating airtime minutes. This allows our phones to stay activated and loaded with minutes to make and take calls!
1. Buy 125 Minutes for 5,000/- (1.33 Dollars USD)
3. Buy 2,400 Minutes for 35,000/- (10 Dollars USD)
4. Buy 4,500 Minutes for 50,000/- (14 Dollars USD)
Your $14 allows one volunteer to make approximately 642 (7-minute) calls or send 10,200 text messages of encouragement and accurate COVID-19 information.
Thank you for supporting this service of providing a loving presence for those who need it now.
COVID-19 awareness training now available. Home visits on hold for now
We have compiled notes and pulled banners to raise awareness about the virus from official health websites to include CDC, WHO, UNICEF, and the MOH Uganda. All our volunteers and local partners have been offered training opportunities and given COVID-19 awareness materials.
All public means of transport was suspended on March 25th, for 14 days. This includes taxis, buses, coasters, passenger trains, tricycles and boda bodas – which are the major means of transportation for our food distribution and nurse teams who make monthly visits to our HIV/AIDS, TB, sick elderly and malnourished children. Consequently, village home visits are impossible right now. Our local team is working to establish safe private means for making local home deliveries, specifically for food and medicine to those who need it badly during this lockdown time.
Private means of transportation are allowed at this time, although private cars are only allowed to carry no more than three people. We are grateful for this means and the precautions.
Sewing More of Our Own Masks
“At RIBHO, we are preparing ourselves for a possible outbreak like other global communities are experiencing. News from all around the world, especially Europe and Asia, dictates that we prepare as best we can.
As limited as our Uganda health care system is, prevention is our only way out. Our Health Officials have thus far done and great job with preventing and controlling other infectious diseases like Ebola. From that past success, we cannot be vigilant enough with this coronavirus. From what we know so far, it is unlike other infectious disease we have experienced in this country, meaning that our preparations and vigilance has to be all the more serious.
We may feel overwhelmed and limited in many ways, but as it turns out, for this coronavirus, our smallest weapon but greatest weapons are common sense universal precautions. For this we are so great to God, knowing that even without a known vaccine yet, behavior change alone holds great outcomes for preventing this disease.
Greatly encouraged in these basic prevention practices of hand hygiene and covering our coughing, and or protecting each other from all our coughing and sneezing, we are sewing masks and making Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) with 100% kitenge cotton fabric. What’s even more encouraging, this fabric is still accessible, cheap, and we already have sewing machines to get us moving at good speed. Aren’t you grateful to God, that in His great mercy He knew to equip us with yards and yards of fabric, non-electric sewing machines, and willing hands to get moving! I know we are here in rural Jinja district.
The days ahead may be difficulty for many of us, but we also know what every little step we take towards prevention will be greatly rewarding by our God, whose loving towards us, has always been reflected in His pursuit for our wellness, and total health. Yes we do live in a fallen world. God does not author suffering, but He promises to walk with us through the difficult days ahead. So child of God, do what you can to protect yourself and others, and then trust God with your labours of love, well knowing that He who begins and authors ALL goodness in us, will surely see us through the days ahead!
Hand-washing and Universal Hygiene
As of today, there are no reported cases of COVID-19 in all our communities of service. But we are officially in lockdown and the MOH is doing a great job with awareness raising for those who are able to listen to the radio, or watch the television. So far we are allowed to congregate in groups of 10, and public transportation is up and running, with pre-cautions outlined by the Ministry of Health.
This week, we are doing our part, raising constant hand washing consciousness with visible signs and incentives for community hand washing, like installing outdoor hand washing stations at designated points, sharing hand washing posters via WhatsApp, and ensuring that our volunteers complete a basic hand washing course for maintain good hand hygiene.
We are also giving verbal encouragement to those homes that have installed observable hand washing stands outside their homes and encouraging their visitors to wash their hands as they come into the home.
Currently we are reviewing reputable global and local official health websites for the latest COVID-19 related materials. Our goal is to contextualize the available content and to simply it to 8-6th grade reading levels. The complied notes and created banners will then be shared with all our local volunteers and partners, to help them raise awareness about the virus with accurate and up to date information and materials.
On March 4th, we were able to put together a hygiene and safety kits for each of our volunteers (as they all make home visits in the community). Each kit contained professionally made face masks, surgical gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectant hand washing soap, band aids, first aid glucose sugars, and more.
At this point, we have no Personal Protective Equipment to share with our clients, their families and our partners except for gloves. However we continue to engage our professional tailor, Ms. Florence, who is presently sewing and stitching sample home-made masks following the current professional guidelines.
As fear and uncertainty abounds, the best we can do is learn from other country efforts, and prepare as best we can. News from Europe makes is clear that we have entered an unprecedented time in the health history of our globe. Our deepest sympathies for those who have already experienced great loss, and a sincere appreciation for the lessons learned being shared with us, so we to can move along with local preparations.
Please join us in prayer for our local and global leadership, that God would grant them the wisdom and calm to make shalom based decisions, difficult as they maybe. We are also praying for all of you good people, that you will do something helpful during this time to lend support, one-to-another. Sorrow always abounds where good men stay silent and inactive. May God grant us all the courage and presence of mind to be present to those far and around us during these difficult times. Shalom!
We now have ready resources to share with our partners and communities
We have been blessed with wonderful friends and sponsor who have given generously towards the purchase of boxes of soap, bleach, buckets, fabric for making face masks, airtime to allow local organizations, churches and health facilities to stay in touch with their patients, and those they serve.
We also have basic COVID-19 health information to share and well as, certificate courses for training those individuals tasked with raising awareness in their communities. With a virus this contagious and sever in its effects, we cannot afford to error with misinformation.
We realize that many of our partners are behind with current mass communication technologies, we are planning the best means of staying in touch and providing quick and much needed health information.
Thank you to all who continue to give towards our efforts.
Our first 50 masks are on the way
Early this week we reviewed several you-tube videos, and down loaded several face mask patterns shared on facebook. We shared these with Ms. Florence at Jinja Town Main Street, to selecting the most technological appropriate mask, that will be culturally acceptable, practical and the easiest to replicate by other tailors. We have supplied her with plenty of 100% cotton fabric, liners, thread and more.
This week, the goal is for her to make us 50 samples. Along with the best mask pattern cut outs and 100% cotton fabric, these 50 samples will soon be distributed to a group of our rural and semi-urban local women tailors, to replicate, and stock for use, as needed in the coming weeks.
Ms. Florence is a professional tailor who has done an incredible job in the past, helping us make simple African nick knacks for our fundraising efforts.
The times ahead call for engaging all our friends. We are so glad we have her in our corner … as much as we have you!
Developing COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plans
With as many overwhelming needs as COVID-19 has presented the global community with, we have seen two types of responses by those with an innate response-ability: – A) Where can I possibly begin? These are the planning type of responders. B) Those who just jump in and learn along the way. We at RIBHO have been a bit of both. We are so glad to have evidence based practices to follow, and as always, seeking and relying on God’s wisdom and guidance as to what will work best, and benefit the most.
We started with the basic hand washing hygiene, which is one of the key recommended protections against COVID-19. We have all heard it, or a version of it: “Wash your hands often and well. Lather by applying a generous amount of soap to the inside and back of your hands, as well as your fingertips and writ. Wash them for at least 20-30 seconds.” Such a basic but not necessarily easy recommendation to act upon for those with limited resources like soap.
We hope to be more practice by providing hand washing products for our patients and community partners. To this end we have purchased bulk boxes of soap and bleach for starters, and these will soon be distributed to our to our local partners to distribute to homes, local churches, and other select public spaces with out-door hand washing stations.
Low risk communities without emergency preparedness basic knowledge or training can be hard to motivate. This is simply because the danger is not yet eminent and while COVID-19 has no doubt disrupted that daily family/ household and personal activities of many, the immediate priorities are basic survival and COVID-19 not patient care and treatment.
Still, we pray! As a lead community public health organization, we are called to lead by example. We continue to provide our regular services as best we can, sometimes “adopting” new groups of clients within reach and with the kind of immediate survival needs we are accustomed to responding to. We have also engaged in emergency preparedness and brought out local partners along with us in planning ahead and creating the resources we might need for our communities in the current state of emergency. Whether it’s making, stocking and supplying masks, soap and hand sanitizing solutions, or creating pandemic response plans for our staff and volunteers, calling and checking in on all our past and current volunteers and partners to simply find out how they are doing; – we see this as a golden opportunity to be community visual, a knowledge resource – providing guidance and instruction, and the salt and light in the community.
When we turn in at the end of each week, we are deeply satisfied, knowing that God has been glorified through us, and love is in surplus circulation in our homes and communities.
Preparing our volunteers for serve with confidence during the COVID-19 pandemic
March 5th, 2020
On March 4th, we were able to put together a hygiene and safety kits for each of our volunteers (as they all make home visits in the community). Each kit contained professionally made face masks, surgical gloves, hand sanitizers, disinfectant hand washing soap, band aids, first aid glucose sugars, a new rain coat, back sack, and more.
Our volunteers have also been trained to provide beside pastoral care. Each one of them was also provided with a Pastor Sacrament Care Kit for Holy Communion, prayer and anointing oil for those patients or family members who often ask for these sacraments.
Although the danger of COVID-19 is seemingly still far from us and our rural Uganda communities, we felt it prudent to prepare ourselves. Our volunteer teams meet monthly to debrief on several field project activities, plan for the next month’s activities and pray through all the prayer requests raised by our patients, their families and our partners. It is also a great time of fellowship, team bonding, sand being there one for another as a team.
I was so very blessed to join the team this March, 1st, 2020 – hosted in the home of Victoria Kateme Ibanda. We enjoyed roasted peanuts, roasted corn, cake, and plenty of Ugandan tea (a blend of just the right milk, ginger, tea leaves and sugar).
We are never sure how God will have us serve, but we always know His invitation for us to join Him at work in our communities is always wide open, and we are already ready and willing to tag along. We have been invited to a sacred love of standing with others in their time of difficulty. We are thankful to God for equipping us, and then supporting us to serve well.
Faith Based COVID-19 Health Worker Training: What You Need to Know, Do and Share
April 3rd 2020
A Telephone Pilot Test Course for No-Tech or Low-Tech Rural Community Health Workers
The COVID-19 global pandemic is a motion disaster that has everyone concerned, and rightly so. While Uganda’s cases are still on the low end, rural nonprofit health organizations like ours must maintain greater health information motion, amid few smartphone users. Sharing accurate evolving on demand COVID health information has become a welcome challenge for us.
Our rural Community Health Workers are the backbone of our programs. Their familiarity with the signs, learning how to manage the symptoms, and how to deal with the “general mental restlessness” around COVID-19 issues is critical in supporting their “nearest circle of care” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Being on the phone daily with our community monitoring volunteers has provided us with helpful insights in designing a short COVID training course that will meet our population’s information needs. We are therefore offering this free course to our Community Health Workers in two native languages over the phone – Lusoga and Luganda.
Information needs arising include: – 1) Recognize the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19. 2) Correcting myths 3) Correctly sharing Bible truths that call for the wisdom to adhere to evidence based scientific health guidelines while still using faith tools for protection. 4) Identifying how COVID-19 has spread around the world and knowing when to look-in on and support recent global travelers. 5) Safely providing community resources to support the consistent practice the public health measures needed to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and 6) Responding adequately to COVID-19 mental health needs.
To encourage participation (5 hour telephone training call) community health workers who complete the phone course with Dr. Mukaire earn a certificate. This will increase their credibility in raising community COVID awareness, correcting myths and encouraging prevention practices.
Practical Resources for You and Your Community
RIBHO’s COVID-19 Response
March 23rd, 2020
This page houses an information bank of COVID-19 resources provided by the faith community and expert public health agencies. Here we will share resources shared and submitted by the global faith community, and several sample documents and checklists, including a sample pandemic response policy, suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO (World Health Organization), best hygiene practices, considerations for altering common faith based ministry practices, and more.
RIBHO does offer direct community programs and resources. Learning from global programs, RIBHO is working to adapt several resources to fit its locally-offered programs and resources that may be of assistance to those we serve amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
While we will maintain the use of evidence based information to the best of our ability, we encourage users to seek expert and medical advice, and to please consult a medical professional if you suspect you may be ill or in danger.
The faith-based views shared here are exactly that – faith based. Therefore we maintain respect of religious rights and liberties of those who express these views and we trust you will do the same.