Guest blog: COVID, Character, Community and Cricket in Kenya

The Foundation’s partners at the East Africa Character Development Trust (EACDT) in Kenya have been swift to react to the Coronavirus pandemic, using their inspiring character development programme as inspiration for their new approach.  Below, EACDT trustee David Waters writes about how this great charity has responded.

If you wish to support EACDT’s COVID Emergency Feeding Programme mentioned below, or know of anyone else who might, you can make a donation using the bank account details below:

Barclays Bank, Account name: East Africa Character Development Trust, Account No: 10392588, Sort Code: 20-84-20

Kenya, like elsewhere in the world, has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.  Whilst the number of infections and recorded deaths has not reached the levels of those seen in Europe or the USA, the restrictions imposed on the country by a government which is doing its best to contain the impact have had severe consequences for all Kenyans.

All schools and learning institutions were closed down in mid-March, along with restaurants, cafes, clubs and bars. Businesses were shut down, people were asked to work from home and follow social distancing measures, wear masks, wash hands regularly and a strictly enforced curfew was imposed from 7pm to 5am every day.

Then followed the suspension of international and domestic flights as well as public movement in and out of Nairobi and Old Town Mombasa. In recent days, an area of Nairobi in which we work in a COSARAF Foundation-supported hub – Eastleigh (Starehe Hub) – has now also been sealed off with no movement in or out as it is a hotspot of COVID infection. Another area, also a COSARAF Foundation-supported Hub called Kawangware, is likely to follow.

Immediately following the closure of schools in mid-March, EACDT and our team of coaches began working on ways to relate our Character Development messages to the COVID-19 crisis.  We began engaging the local communities around the schools in which we work and also those in which the EACDT coaches live to understand how best we could help.

The initiatives we launched following this engagement included:

  • producing and displaying Character Cards in the communities;
  • personally engaging with people encouraging them to follow the Government guidelines and stressing the eight Character Traits we use;
  • arranging quizzes for the small number of pupils that have access to mobile/internet technology;
  • arranging community clean-ups of blocked sewers/drains; and,
  • producing video clips with pupils, teaches and members of the communities to reinforce the Character through Community message and the Government’s health messages

Our EACDT Team carries out these activities on a daily basis and encourages others to get involved who are nothing to do with our formal programme, including a Kenya Cricket international player who lives in the same area and random folk who are willing to get involved.  Interestingly, this has created the opportunity of actually spreading the word about what EACDT does to a much wider Kenyan audience’ in the local communities close to the schools in which we normally work. It may well prove to be an interesting opportunity to leverage and expand once this pandemic has passed.

The communities in which our team works by and large rely on the informal economy for survival, earning enough each day to survive and feed themselves and their families. Those lucky enough to be in more formal employment commute each day for their work. With most businesses now closed (hopefully temporarily) and with even the informal sector vastly curtailed, many of the families of the pupils we teach and coach are now under critical financial strain.

Our coaches began to report that some families are genuinely unable to provide even one meal each day for their children. One of our Hub Leaders in COSARAF Foundation-supported Starehe Hub – Margaret Ngoche – started a personal initiative to feed six such desperate families. On learning about this, EACDT has now expanded this idea and is promoting an EACDT Feeding Programme fundraising drive to feed as many of the most needy families as funds will allow. This is only a temporary programme, intended to last for as long as the COVID Lockdown lasts.

A basic food parcel includes 4kg maize meal, 2kg baking flour, 4kg chick peas, cooking fat/oil, salt, fresh veg, soap, and a couple of other bits and pieces costs about £12.  In the space of a couple of days we have already found donors who will be provide enough funds to feed 33 families for 10 days. We are aiming to expand this initiative to include many more families and to keep the provision going for a minimum of two months, or as long as the lockdown continues.

Our team has adapted quickly and practically to bring the Character, Community, Cricket message to as wide a population as possible whilst working within the guidelines and restrictions that have been laid down by the Government.  Without the funding the COSARAF Foundation is providing our programme, much of this vital work would just not be possible.

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