The worldwide impact of the COVID-19 virus is significant. Also in the rural areas where Join for Joy is active. This strange 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, because the problems and their solutions are different per country and community. 

Below you will find an overview of the alternative activities that we have developed in the past months.

COVID-19 Handout
In collaboration with Eva van Dongen (known as @devisueelmaker), 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
We have worked on a ‘Back to School Campaign’, which we have luckily been able to start at the schools that reopened again in Zambia and Malawi. 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 labor work for weeks. An important reason for children to return to school is the sports and play activities, which is why we use this as a tool to encourage local children to return to school. Additionally, we inform parents during community meetings in which we inform them on the local COVID-19 issues and discuss the importance of education with them. 

Despite the fact that, unfortunately, many schools have not opened yet, we are keen to start our Back to School campaign at all of our schools.

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 uses 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. 

Zambia – Menstrual cups
In Zambia, we are currently focusing 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 sports and play coordinators Edgar Silwiz and Sammy Thaimu have linked a team of 7 local medical students and 1 doctor to this project. They give these girls in the communities training every week to educate them. The cups will give the girls more self-confidence, which contributes to their general resilience. It also increases the chance that they will return to school. 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 for the communities, in order to encourage children to return to school after the lockdown. In small groups, children and parents were invited to participate in sports and play activities 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 noticed that boredom has risen within the communities as the schools are still closed. Children seek entertainment in physical contact, resulting in (unwanted) pregnancies and diseases. In the upcoming months, our sports and play coordinators in Uganda will form one team together with the trained teachers from the program. Together they will actively guide a total of 1200 families and 7200 children among 24 communities. They will do this by using the following activities;
1. Offering an anti-boredom workshop (making sports and play materials with found stuff)
2. Playing Boy and Girl empowerment games.
3. Coaching and resilience training for pregnant teenage girls.
4. Teaching parents to play activities with the children at home.
5. Having conversations with the parents so that they also understand the importance of keeping their child(ren) active.

Great news! In the meantime, some schools in Zambia and Malawi have opened again. This means that children can fully enjoy the Join for Joy sports and play activities at school again, resulting in energetic and resilient children with a positive perspective for their future.