Where do we begin to summarize 2020? The year started off normal. Scholarships were awarded, students went off to school, and we embarked on our usual planning for programming for the rest of the year. Of course, in March 2020, everything changed. Schools closed, and would remain closed for the rest of the year. Gathering people together was neither advisable nor allowed, preventing us from convening our youth and women for any workshops, training or in-person support. Regions like Samburu seemed like some of the most potentially vulnerable places in the world, with its remoteness, limited medical care capacity, and a population with many individuals who are older or with underlying conditions.
Early on, as stress mounted about the potential impact of COVID, SYEF embraced a responsibility to be a leader in the community on COVID response. We went door to door distributing sanitizers, soaps and information; we made hundreds and hundreds of masks to distribute; we arranged the delivery and distribution of food to vulnerable families; we raised funds and distributed weekly stipends to women-led households; we purchased and distributed study guides to our scholarship recipients; and we checked in with our female scholarship recipients to advise on how to maintain their health and safety while at home. COVID showed us that we are an adaptable, empathetic and nimble organization, something we knew about ourselves but had not been tested to the extent 2020 did. While the work of our organization is beginning to resemble something more typical, we’ve learned a lot about the assets of our organization, and will build on those strengths as we establish a new “normal” for the organization.