Although we are working from home, our hearts and minds remain with all of our families who have been deeply affected, both financially and emotionally by the pandemic. Making sure we continue to offer our support services whilst the school is closed has been a challenge, but one that we have overcome by making regular weekly phone calls to students and their families. It is so important to us to stay in contact and remind them that they are not alone in this crisis.
The fear of getting sick, losing their jobs and the anxiety of an uncertain future all have negative impacts on mental health. The fear of not being able to feed their family, especially in a household of up to 10 to 15 people, adds massively to their stress. This stress and uncertainty can also lead to an increase in cases of domestic violence.
The Social Services team have come up with a number of ways to continue providing vital support. Michelle, our school psychologist, phones students weekly to check in with them and their families. She makes sure she has time to chat to each student at length to detect if there are any risks we should be aware of.
Celena, our school nurse, has organised the distribution of essential medicine supplies and continues monitoring students and family members with health issues. During one of our food hamper distributions, one parent came to us to ask for support for his son, as he had been recently diagnosed with convulsions. If he stopped being able to access his treatment, his health would decline and he could suffer brain damage. Fortunately, the foundation was able to help make sure he received the medicine he needed.
Our students' circumstances have changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic. Many of our scholarship students have been left unemployed because the greatest source of employment for our students is tourism. As many of them are the main providers for their families, this has caused a lot of stress and anxiety on top of their studies.
One of our students had just got a job at a hotel and was able to provide for his family whilst studying for his degree. When the crisis hit he lost his job and his family were left in a difficult position. Our emergency food hampers are helping families like his survive the uncertainty of this period and allowing our scholarship students to focus on their studies.
The mental health of our staff is also very important. Each week we run online ‘circles of trust’ meetings with our teachers, directors and administrative team. In these sessions we listen to each other, share our concerns and work out the best solutions. They help us to support each other and build hope for the future.
Despite all the challenges facing us, we are working with enthusiasm and keep on smiling through the crisis. We are all waiting with hope for the moment when we can return to the school and see our students again.