Iquitos is a large city in the northern jungle region of Peru. It has a high level of economic poverty clustered into three neighbourhoods in particular. That is where we support two “partner projects” and I must say that when I visited a few years ago I was struck by the difficult living conditions.
COVID-19 has shut the country down and in places like Iquitos “social distancing” is impossible as large groups of people live in rickety wooden structures and sanitation, as we know it, does not exist.
In terms of education, school never opened but the state is attempting remote education. Our communities do not have internet and many do not have electricity. The only computers are ours.
In Iquitos, our local partner organization, El Manguare (really just two local well-meaning people managing on a $20,000/year budget), has decided to have teachers go to children’s homes in full PPE gear to ensure they are safe, have food and provide teaching although with a modified curriculum.
For El Manguare we normally pay one teacher salary every year. Given this particular initiative, at this challenging time, we have decided to fund this new project for two months by paying for some of the PPE gear and material costs on top of the salary.
I think that these extraordinary times provide civil society organizations like ours extraordinary opportunities to help. We already have people on the ground who know the communities and know what our students need most. After this crisis is over, our actions will be remembered by the local government authorities, our staff, and most importantly, the families with whom we work. We can do little to help the health risk of COVID-19 but we can help a lot with the social and educational fall-out of it.