'Supporting families and
young people to achieve...'
On the afternoon of Tuesday 4 August, a colossal explosion sent a mushroom cloud into the air and a supersonic blast wave radiated through the city of Beirut, Lebanon.
Communities impacted by the blast now face a triple emergency as they struggle to recover from the impact of the explosion and to prevent the spread of coronavirus amid the worst global economic crisis in decades.
Reports indicate that the explosion has killed over 200 people and wounded more than 5000 - 1000 of them children. At least 60 people are missing and over 300,000 have been displaced from their homes. An already overwhelmed health system is now being stretched to breaking point.
This week, Intouch Global Foundation donated £10,000 to the International Rescue Committee to help contribute to the urgent support they are providing to the people most affected by the crisis – including refugees, women, children, and people with special needs.
Staff on the ground are working with emergency response specialists to coordinate with the Lebanese government, UN agencies, and local and international NGOs in addressing immediate protection needs such as debris clearing, psychological support, dignity kits and emergency case management. The IGF is privileged to be contributing toward their efforts, and will keep up updated with further developments as they happen.
Our partners in Janakpur, Nepal, have made great strides over the past few weeks and have now been officially recognised by the Nepalese government! Oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Mr Sunil Sah, who co-founded the Craniofacial Centre in 2017, has given the organisation well-deserved publicity as a result of the interview he did on Nepal's largest national TV network last week. During the 30-minute long broadcast, Mr Sah discussed the incredible work done by Future Faces, which is the only facility of its kind in the region to deliver all acute dental, craniofacial, and trauma treatment. Pictured is a health worker equipped with PPE funded by the IGF and the Nepalese government, enabling crucial work to continue despite social distancing measures.
On Friday 8 May, the Intouch Gambia team led by Michael Mendy, distributed relief parcels to the families of 252 children who are pupils at Jan Jan Bureh nursery. For the remaining 12 children, parcels were delivered to their homes the following day. Each child was given a 6kg bag of rice, a bottle of cooking oil, and a bottle of liquid soap. These basic essentials will go a long way in easing the burden created by the loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Intouch Gambia will monitor the situation of the pupils and their families. The IGF continues to pay the salaries of teachers while the school remains closed.
Intouch Global Foundation continues to contribute to efforts around the world to aid those who are vulnerable as the spread of COVID-19 continues. In Janakpur, Nepal, medical staff and volunteers from the Craniofacial Centre have been distributing face masks, gloves, and sanitser to the local community, with those waiting following social distancing measures and forming queues two metres apart.
We were delighted to see that our long time partner, Mr Sunil Shah was interviewed on Appan TV - Nepal's leading private TV station. Mr Shah set up the Craniofacial Centre in his home city of Janakpur, Nepal, in 2017 and spent the duration of the broadcast discussing the work they do to improve the lives of those who have been born with craniofacial abnormalities. This has given publicity to the Craniofacial Centre, and serves to highlight the extraordinary work they do for those in the community. For anyone who wants to brush up on their Maithili, click to watch the full video here!
On Monday 27th April, the Intouch Gambia team delivered a relief package to 20 families in Janjanbureh, eastern Gambia, as an urgent response to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in the area.
The team conducted a survey of the local community to identify families with the most immediate needs. Of the 20 families, half of them are headed by widowed mothers who now face a drastically reduced income in the wake of worldwide isolation. The little proceeds they relied on before have now ceased entirely as they can no longer sell fruit and vegetables in the local market.
The team successfully delivered to each household a package consisting of a gallon of cooking oil, a 50kg sack of rice, an 18kg sack of onions, and a pack of 20 bars of soap, funded by Intouch Global Foundation.
Intouch Gambia's Executive Director, Michael Mendy, reflects on the impact of this support: "The good thing out of this predicament is that the world has come together to combat a common enemy. In our quest to relieve poverty, Intouch Gambia deemed it necessary to contribute her quota in rendering social services to people. The team successfully supported 20 needy families, and as an entity, we hope to render support to more families."
They will continue to monitor the situation as the pandemic progresses, and work to assist those who are most vulnerable in the region.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced many charities to drastically alter how they usually operate, and Intouch Global Foundation has spent the last few weeks focusing efforts on how best to support our projects during this pandemic, tailoring relief to meet immediate needs during the worldwide sanctioning of self-isolation.
The first step was to evaluate how each individual organisation has been affected, and to evaluate the needs of those in their communities. Self-isolation has stopped how the majority of our charities provide their normal services, for example, classrooms are no longer in operation, libraries are temporarily closed, and clinics are limited to treating patients in urgent cases only.
The impact of this pandemic will have wide-ranging effects for a long time to come, not only on a health level but also on an economic one. For now, IGF are focusing on addressing immediate needs.
Read below to see the status of some of the organisations we support:
• In Gambia, as with the UK, schools have been temporarily closed. Michael Mende of Switched On-Gambia has identified some 50 of the most vulnerable of families in the region and will deliver food packages which include rice, vegetables, cooking oil, as well as sanitising products. Jan Jan Bureh Nursery is closed, but the IGF will continue the provision of teachers’ salaries.
• The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) have stopped all field missions and non-essential good entering Kakuma, Kenya, to try and prevent COVID-19 spreading into the camp. Plans for solar lamps and books to be delivered are on hold for now.
• Peru began social quarantining a week earlier than the UK, and have been in complete lockdown since March 15. The region of Cusco where Project Añañau is based have seen normal life come to complete stand still, with strict measures and a curfew in place. Unfortunately, the project has had to close temporarily. Staff and volunteers have issued children with advice about the importance of washing hands, keeping distance, and other important precautions, and are in daily contact with those who possess mobile phones. Ellen and other members of staff are organising relief packages for families who are now without a source of income.
• Renovations on Al-Hamzah School in Taiz, Yemen, have been put on hold as entry into the village has been blocked. Once restrictions are lifted, materials such as cement can be brought in, and building can resume once more.
• In Janakpur, Nepal, The Craniofacial Centre is closed for all routine non-urgent procedures. However, staff are present as the outpatient department remains open to provide limited services for screening, counselling, scheduling of new cleft patients, emergency trauma and office work.
• In Cambodia, Flame classrooms have been closed, and offices are being operated by skeleton staff. The impact of these closures are far-reaching; children who attend lessons at Flame are fed daily and are now without. The focus for now is on providing relief packages made up of 1000kg of rice, and other basic essentials have been organised and distributed to families who have been identified as being most at risk.
• Franche Community Church, based in Kidderminster, is still open and operating, and have seen the numbers of their food deliveries triple as they extend donations to those considered vulnerable, including those who are ill or elderly. Volunteers and drivers continue to practice social distancing and have been provided with gloves and sanitiser.
• Wyre Forest NightStop have been dealing with specific needs via remote means such as making applications, signposting to other agencies, and giving advice and information over the telephone. Support for mental wellbeing is in place through conversation, reassurance and signposting to other resources. The provision of practical support such as help with shopping and collecting medication has also been implemented.
• Living Springs, Stourbridge, has been identified as a key service, so are open and continue to support three families onsite.
Intouch Global Foundation supports Future Faces, a charity dedicated to training and supporting surgeons and associated health professionals to care for people with craniofacial deformities such as cleft lip and palate, trauma, and other problems in the head and neck region.
Without medical intervention, the consequences of such defects can be dramatic, ranging from social exclusion and stigmatisation to death as babies often may not be able to eat properly. Future Faces seek to deliver the best support and treatment for those in local communities, thereby changing the future for otherwise disadvantaged children.
In 2017, the IGF contributed to the establishment of the Craniofacial Centre, built on the site of Janakpur Trauma and Orthopaedic Hospital, Nepal. IGF funded the upgrade of the operating theatre by equipping it with state-of-the-art facilities, enabling basic but essential surgery to be performed.
Thanks to our partnership with Book Aid International, the Centre now has a medical library! Book Aid provided specialist textbooks, journals, and papers, with transport and delivery facilitated by IGF. The Gangadhar Medical Library gives local health professionals access to crucial and up-to-date medical and health information so that they can continue their work.
Intouch Gambia has just received a shipment of 8,000 brand new books from Book Aid International! In a feat of cross-country collaboration, non-profit organisation Riders for Health transported the shipment to Intouch Gambia coordinator Michael Mendy who is now able to distribute the books - alongside solar lamps - thanks to his new pickup truck.
The books for children include picture books, phonics books, young adult fiction and non-fictional education such as English as a Second Language texts. The diversity of age-appropriate books provided for young readers ensure that the children have the books they need for every stage of learning.
As well as the acquisition of a new vehicle, Intouch Gambia is currently in the process of recruiting two additional field workers to assist with operations as the organisation grows and continues to help more families and communities in the Central River Region of The Gambia!
Below are images of an HSPCCO volunteer distributing sandwiches to a street community in north western Cambodia, a project supported by Intouch Global Foundation. The organisation (which stands for Helper Students for Poor Children of Cambodia Organisation) run schools in Siem Reap which teach reading, writing, maths, science, rudimentary agricultural skills, as well as lessons in human rights and English. The area has access to very limited resources, and children here don't receive a state education.
The founder and leader of HSPCCO, Samuth "Lucky Man" Noem, is so named after his incredible escape from the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, navigating the deadly minefields to the safety of the Thai border where he sought refuge.
In 1975, following the Cambodian Civil War, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government and executed then 15-year old Samuth's father, a governor in southern Cambodia, along with the rest of his family. Samuth escaped into the jungle, joining a group of 33 who set out on foot to flee Cambodia. Samuth was one of only three who survived the journey and from this time forth became known as Lucky Man.
An estimated 1.7 million people died during this regime from 1975-1979 - a quarter of Cambodia's population. Lucky Man survived, and vowed to help the children of those who did not have his faith and good fortune. IGF support Lucky Man by donating food, books, school supplies, uniforms, and basic medicine, allowing him to continue his remarkable work in regions around Puok Village, Siem Reap.
In February we shared photos of a temporary classroom which would eventually become Flame Cambodia's fourth activity centre, and we are delighted to share news of progress made since then!
There are three centres already in Sen Sok, Steung Meanchey, and Bong Tom Pun, and this Centre, funded by InTouch Global Foundation, will attend to children from the Boeung Trabek community in the capital city of Phnom Penh. In Cambodia, public schools are only open for half the day and Flame's centres serve to provide study assistance and extra tuition to all children - even those not officially enrolled on to their programme.
Classes are given in Maths, English, Computing, Khmer (the national language of Cambodia), as well as in dancing and music, providing invaluable benefit to children who may have missed years of schooling due to poverty, helping them to catch up with their peers. Flame also ensure that no child leaves the centre without having something to eat; every child receives a meal and a carton of milk when they visit.
What started out as a temporary makeshift classroom consisting of plastic tables and chairs is now laid with concrete and, as of last week, has a roof! Walls will not be erected to give the structure an open setting. The idea behind this visibility is so that the classroom is viewed as being as accessible and approachable to children in the community as possible. Upcoming developments also include setting up solar power to run security lights at night, providing sustainable and affordable energy for the facility.
The children, all from backgrounds of poverty and deprivation, are eager to learn. Nicola Palairet, Communications Director of Flame Cambodia, says of the centre,
"We have 55 children coming most days, and they really are engaging and learning. There are about 500 kids in the wider community, which is overwhelming, to say the least, but our work is significant in the midst of poverty. Without education, these kids just don't have a pathway forward.
We have been getting feedback from our staff that the kids' attitudes are changing and improving, and I believe this new facility is what is making the difference… because we are now a stable part of the community, there's a sense that we are committed, and we aren't just fly by night, here one day, gone the next. This makes a difference to the kids. Our partnership with IGF is essential and has been the catalyst for change and major upgrades!"
This blog is to show the progress and activities of Intouch Global Foundation, and the charities it supports.