For a few weeks now, many of us have been asking, “How is COVID-19 influencing my work?“, “How is the economy influenced?” and “How can I maintain productivity?“. Looking inward is extremely important, especially to maintain good mental health and wellbeing. But in all of this, have we neglected to ask how the world’s most vulnerable, people living in poverty, are affected?
The largest humanitarian aid organisations have been relatively quiet. Sharing great examples of personal hygiene with their online communities, but not highlighting the status of their projects in the current climate. It’s believed that much of positive societal change starts with education, but the premise of education is set on bringing people together; in schools, at a local house, at a community centre. Unfortunately, the home office is actually only available to very few of us.
This considered, it’s reasonable to assume that very few new volunteer or aid programs (with the exception of COVID related initiatives) are being set in motion for the coming weeks. Also that many aren’t continuing in their usual setting, or at all. Perhaps this means that only the most inclusive and sustainable projects will survive. Ones that have involved local people from the start and were established for long term change. Which is a nice thought, but perhaps not so realistic.
With Moja, we have had to put everything on hold. The projects are managed locally. Underwear and sanitary pads are made locally. They’re donated in local schools by local people where teachers educate on the importance of practising good hygiene. However, with social distancing in practice, our project manager can’t travel to the closest city to purchase more fabric and sewing supplies. Nor to various schools to donate underwear and pads. The hygiene workshops that teachers conduct cannot be delivered. All schools in Tanzania are closed.
At this moment, we have become very aware of the challenge we are facing. Quite honestly, we don’t know exactly what to do. Our underwear production in Portugal is up in the air so as our launch date is stretched back, we can’t expect sales to feed into producing and donating underwear in Tanzania any time soon.
We also recognise it would be an excellent time to create more work for people with a distance to the labour force, who would benefit greatly for financial security. I believe that our decision to structure Moja as a company AND a foundation to create independency, was in fact a good one. We are going to put even more energy into acquiring non-profit funding. The moment that it is safe for social distancing to ease up, we hope our team is ready to continue their impactful work, without having to wait for the company’s sales to provide funding. But until then, we hope to figure something out.
With everything a little quieter, or perhaps with just less distraction, it is a good time to think. As Moja, here lies an opportunity to rethink every aspect of our business, programs and operations. I hope that governments and we as society do the same, to take the opportunity to question everything and perhaps change the parameters of how civilisation really works. To collectively use creative wisdom as a force to reconsider our systems. To rediscover how we serve others at a local and international level. Perhaps this, the slowing down of economies and people (excluding health and emergency workers) is what we needed to direct our attention there.