As our school remains closed, we have to constantly adapt and change our methods to provide both practical and emotional support to our families. For example, when the school first closed, we provided our 51 Scholarship students with phone data chips to access online learning. Learning materials were also put online via Facebook groups for our School of Hope students. However, after phoning our students the Social Department learnt that many families could no longer afford internet access. Now, each month, in addition to the food parcels, students receive homework packages with printed tasks and five weeks of reading which they can submit to their teachers for marking and feedback.
Guatemala, one of Latin America's most unequal countries has been hard hit by the COVID-19 crisis. 70% of Guatemalans earn a precarious living in the unregulated informal economy and many have lost their jobs as a result of the lockdown measures, leaving them with no access to income. With over 60% of the population already living in poverty and one of the highest rates of childhood malnutrition in the world, the current crisis has severe and lasting consequences.
Although the Guatemalan government claims it has delivered food boxes and monetary assistance to those in need, many families have still not received any additional support outside the emergency packages provided by EFTC. The Bono Familiar government programme was started on 11th May to provide families, who have no access to income, emergency financial assistance of Q1,000 (approx. £100) for 3 months. However, phone calls to our families in June revealed that many were not eligible because the assistance was allocated based on electricity billing information. Lots of our families share electrical bills with others neighbours and found that their identification number had already been registered. Sadly other families were asked by their landlords to give them their bill and did so for fear of getting evicted. As is often the case, those who need help the most are unable to access it.
EFTC has responded by checking in on each family frequently throughout the month. Maintaining close contact has allowed staff to provide emotional support and assess risk. In early May, 14 staff members conducted a phone survey with 380 families. The quantitative data collected helps us monitor the impact of the pandemic on our families and develop an appropriate long term response plan. The most insightful feedback was the in-depth conversations with the families’ which will enable us to improve our services to meet their unique needs.
Consequences of the Pandemic as of May
It is crucial that we maintain close contact with our students and families throughout this critical period to remind them that they are not alone. Although the lockdown has meant the EFTC family is physically distant, our community spirit is stronger than ever. We thank the wider EFTC community all over the globe who have made it possible for us to continue working to provide vital support during these difficult times.