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The enormous global learning disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affected more than 1.6 billion lives of students, of which the children in Sub Saharan Africa may be the biggest victims. The lockdowns in the countries have resulted in a significant increase in unwanted pregnancies and child marriages. Kids have found (illegal) ways to make money by hustling on the streets. All schools within the Join for Joy program have reopened after the lockdown. However, they face the tragic result of the lockdown; many children have not returned to school.

This uncanny situation requires flexibility and creativity from our teams in both East Africa and The Netherlands. Despite facing big challenges, the Join for Joy team is more energetic and driven than ever! We have taken this challenging time to look at each region closely and review the greatest current needs within the communities we are active in. Below you will find an overview of the alternative activities that we have developed in the past months.

COVID-19 Handout
We have developed an informative handout especially for the children in the rural areas of East Africa in which we explain what the COVID-19 virus is, what the symptoms are, and how one can protect themselves from it. This handout, combined with one bar of soap per household, has been distributed throughout our entire network of partners, schools, other NGO’s, local governments, and companies in the rural areas where we are active.

Back to School campaign
During the lockdowns, we have worked on a Back to School Campaign. This campaign has been developed because our partners were afraid that many children would not return to school once they reopened their doors after helping their parents taking care of labour work for weeks. An important reason for children to return to school is the sports and play activities. This is why we used this as a tool to encourage local children to return to school. Additionally, we informed parents on the local COVID-19 issues and discussed the importance of education with them during community meetings in which the local COVID-19 measures were taken into account.

Kenia – Girl empowerment
Our sports and play coordinator in Kenya, Ruth Mwinga, has started to guide teenage girls who became pregnant during the lockdown. Within this program, supervised by our partner organization Macheo, Ruth used various activities from our sports and play program to give these girls self-confidence and make them resilient so that they will look at their future positively, in which motherhood has given a completely different turn to their young life. Now the schools are open again, Ruth is focusing on the Join for Joy program again. However, the girls are still guided by our partner organisation Macheo.

Zambia – Menstrual cups
In Zambia, we focused on the education and distribution of menstrual cups among teenage girls in the communities surrounding schools that participate in our Sports and Play Program. Our local coordinators Edgar Silwiz and Sammy Thaimu linked a team of 7 local medical students and 1 doctor to this project. They gave the girls in the communities training every week to educate them on the menstrual cups. The cups give the girls more self-confidence, which contributes to their general resilience. One cup changes their life and makes sure they never have to miss a day of school due to menstruation again! Our partner organization Sport in Action will continue to provide information on menstrual cups and distribute them in and around the schools.

Malawi – Sports and play activities
After distributing the COVID-19 handouts in Malawi, our local coordinators have focused on organizing sports and play activities in the communities, to encourage children to return to school after the lockdown. Children and parents were invited to participate in sports and play activities in small groups, in which COVID-19 issues were discussed. The schools have now started again and each school receives soap and a water tank from the government so that children can take the hygiene measures that are required. Our COVID-19 handouts are enlarged and pasted upon these water tanks.

Uganda – Community Based Approach
Our coordinators in Uganda will form one team with the trained Join for Joy teachers the upcoming months, to execute the Community Based Approach! They unite to go into the local communities and get the conversation going with parents. Many children have not returned to school after the lockdown. Through sensitization of parents on their roles and responsibilities towards their children, they get reminded of the value of education and the importance of sending their children to school.

In this way, the children in our program can fully develop themselves again into resilient boys and girls with a positive perspective on the future!