“True solidarity is born from empathy and discipline: Empathy to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, discipline to make shared goals come true.” - Alex Rovira
In March, we launched a COVID-19 relief campaign to provide emergency relief to thousands of borrowers affected by the pandemic. We are happy to report that thanks to your generosity, we exceeded our fundraising goal of $50,000 for PPE and food support! In response to borrowers' urgent need for assistance, we partnered with organizations in Argentina, Ecuador, Honduras, and Nicaragua to purchase and distribute PPE, including masks and cleaning products, and to assemble kits for clients and their families containing nonperishable food items. While some partners are continuing to disperse materials to staff and borrowers, we've provided thousands with kits so far as the need for relief continues.
Ecuador was the hardest hit Latin American country at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ecuadorian government ordered a lockdown in March, helping to protect citizens' health but harming members of the informal economy. Between December 2019 and June 2020, unemployment rose from 3.8% to 13.9%. When lockdown restrictions eased in June, there was a resurgence of cases.
In response to the need to protect clients from the virus, our partner Espoir purchased and distributed 25,000 reusable face masks in five provinces across Ecuador.
This summer, Espoir surveyed 3,342 clients - nearly 3/4 of whom are women - to learn how they were affected by the pandemic. This is what they found out.
95% of respondents reported that their income had fallen compared to the month before the pandemic
Only 9% were continuing to operate their businesses as they had in the month before the pandemic
A whopping 54% of clients noted that they had decreased their consumption of protein to save money
39% reported that they had been forced to reduce the number of meals a day
In Honduras, the government declared an emergency and restricted movement in mid-March. Despite an increase in cases, the government was reopened after three months in many areas. Informal workers, who account for around 82% of the market, have seen declines in business. A national curfew remains in place. As of the first week of October, there had been over 80,000 cases and 2,000 deaths.
Our parter ASHETFIN supported 250 clients and 70 employees with the funds raised by WCCN. Food kits containing rice, pasta, sugar, red beans, oatmeal, toilet paper, and toothpaste and PPE including bleach, soap, detergent, hand sanitizer, and masks.
ASHETFIN staff reported that when they delivered the food and PPE to clients, clients mentioned that they had felt forgotten, especially by the Honduran government. The clients who live in more remote areas expressed gratitude that staff had traveled far in order to reach their homes.
In Flor del Campo, Honduras, Alicia Carolina Oliva works as a food vendor. However, when she got COVID-19 she had to shut down her business for 40 days. During this tough time, she and her family didn't generate an income and had to cut down on food purchases.
Roque García sells milk and raises cattle in Villa Vieja, Honduras. When COVID hit, he was forced to sell milk by going door to door, and he thinks that that's how he contracted COVID. After weeks of battling severe respiratory symptoms, he returned home.
In addition, with the help of WCCN's campaign, PRISMA gave monetary support to two of its employees who were affected personally by the virus. Roberto Osorto's mother passed away after contracting it and four close family members became ill. Jose Valladares also contracted COVID-19 along with three members of his household. Both received funds to help them during this difficult time.
In Nicaragua, no quarantine or travel restrictions were imposed. Insufficient testing has resulted in many COVID-19 deaths going undetected. While health workers and the international community have criticized leader Daniel Ortega for his inaction, small businesses have not suffered as much as they have in neighboring countries. WCCN partnered with three institutions in Nicaragua: Leon 200, MiCredito, and AMLK, to distribute PPE and food.
WCCN partner Leon 2000 reported that staff interactions with clients while delivering relief packages to 108 families allowed them to see how the virus has affected them. Staff noted that businesses have deteriorated and remittances from family members living in other countries affected by the virus have sharply dropped, leaving clients in an economically precarious situation. One little boy remarked that he hadn't had milk in weeks when staff delivered a food package to his family. Despite these difficulties, partners continue to report that borrowers are finding new ways to generate money and that they are remaining hopeful.
Yaritza Herrerra Reyes, a client of Leon 2000, makes a living selling tamales. Her husband, a security guard, lost his job due to the pandemic and now works with Yaritza, traveling from town to town to find enough customers. Yaritza is confident that she will be able to get back on her feet and continue to support her two children.
Partner Mi Credito distributed 1,092 food and PPE packages at 12 of its branches across the country. The packages contained rice, beans, sugar, cooking oil, salt, soap, masks, and cleaning supplies. Hear from some of the families who received packages in the video below (in Spanish.)
With its donation, AMLK distributed 7 packages containing 15 different food and hygiene products to 7 of its staff members in September. Later, it distributed packages to 35 borrowers' households.
Griselda Maria Urbina Duarte, a clothing vendor and mother of three, pictured above on the left, thanked AMLK and WCCN for her package. "To tell you the truth, I feel surprised. Thank you for this gift and may you continue doing this great work."
Pictured above on the top, AMLK staff stand near their food and PPE packages.
On the bottom left, Carolina Lisseth Morales Cerda, a seamstress, chats with AMLK staff. "We're going through tough times in Nicaragua. It's good to know there are still people in this world who have a heart," she said. When the pandemic hit, her husband, a construction worker, was caught in a long line outside the bank behind a man who had COVID and wasn't wearing a mask. He and Carolina contracted the virus. A private doctor recommended that they avoid the hospital because of its close quarters and lack of capacity to treat patients, so Carolina and her husband quarantined from their daughter and used home medicine to ease their symptoms. Carolina's husband's boss loaned the family money for medicine while they were sick and couldn't work.
On the bottom right, David Lara is pictured. David has been a security guard at AMLK for the past four years, and his wife runs a food business out of their home. When David contracted coronavirus, he spent a week in bed, using natural medicines like eucalyptus, cinnamon, and lemon. Fortunately, no one else in his household became sick, and he was able to safely return to work, taking various health and safety precautions. His wife, however, was forced to shut down her business due to lack of demand.