On safety, risks, and care in times of COVID-19

By Rodrigo Barraza García | October 28, 2020 | The Americas |

Editor’s Note: This blog is also available in Spanish

Safety…

Like everyone else, I was taken by surprise by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On February 22, I concluded a transnational convening in Tijuana, in which migrant girls and adolescents filled my heart with their stories of struggle and resistance. After this event, I traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in an amazing planning session with my colleagues at GFC. We spent a week sharing dreams and new ideas for a future that seemed complicated but hopeful.

On March 8, I was ready to go home, to Mexico.

I was very lucky to be able to return. A week later, the confinement began, along with the doubts and the questions. Fear set in.

Like many, I was sure it wouldn’t last long. “It will be a matter of a couple of weeks, nothing to worry about,” I thought. The days passed, the number of deaths increased. It was time to make decisions.

Following GFC’s core principles and values, our first decision was to ensure that our partner organizations and the communities they support were safe. We strive to serve our partners first.

With passion and commitment, we launched an Emergency Response Fund to issue immediate cash grants to our partners serving children affected by the pandemic. So far, we have approved $404,000 in emergency grants for 124 partners all over the world.

Emotional strengthening activities for children coordinated by GFC's partner APIC UTOPIA in Chimalhuacan, Mexico. © GFC

At the same time, we began to build spaces for meeting and offering emotional support for both our partners and the GFC family. We worked together to try to understand the situation and build resilience – and to enjoy the comfort that being with others brings.

It was the moment of “virtual happy hours,” “virtual cafes,” “trivia nights.” We cried and laughed together. We helped each other heal. We survived.

Finally, we provided support to our partners so they could review and implement their safeguarding policies, and helped them to build and strengthen virtual safe spaces for children during this crisis. No one could be left behind.

Risks…

Accustomed as they are to always living in crisis mode, our grassroots partners soon started to build new strategies to work within this new normal. Little by little, they stopped reacting and started proposing.

We began to collaborate on initiatives presented by our partners that transcended humanitarian aid and were committed to the transformation and improvement of communities.

Participatory methodologies workshop facilitated by GFC's staff. © GFC

In Mexico, we supported the construction of a community radio station to share information about the pandemic and, at the same time, strengthen youth empowerment and the communication skills of children and youth.

We also supported the creation of community gardens that, in addition to contributing to food security, will advance solidarity and strengthen support networks during and after the pandemic.

New educational spaces, virtual courses, and protocols to prevent gender-based violence during confinement were created, with children and youth leading the way.

In addition to supporting these initiatives, we at GFC began to work toward the creation of training spaces and collaborative learning agendas. It was time to seize the moment and find new ways of working together and supporting each other transnationally. It was time to project and share our dreams with the world.

Obviously, safety was still at the center. But at the same time, we remembered that we had to have courage. That if you want to make the world a better place, you have to take risks for change. It’s what our partners do every day. And we couldn’t leave them alone.

Care…

As confinement begins to relax in some regions of the world, and our partners begin to resume their community activities, new questions have arisen:

How can we continue to take care of ourselves as activities begin again? How can we stop looking at others with fear and distrust? How do we fight for our right to be together and at the same time stay safe and take care of others? How can we not let fear paralyze us or make us selfish?

Emotional strengthening activities for children coordinated by GFC's partner APIC UTOPIA in Chimalhuacan, Mexico. © GFC

We do not yet have all the answers to these questions. But in these times when a dictatorship of fear, hatred, and mistrust seems to prevail, we are committed to connection and solidarity, to caring about, trusting, and learning from one another. In a world full of stress and difficulty, a culture of enthusiasm, empathy, and collaboration helps us thrive in our work. We embrace passion and kindness. Especially during these troubled times.

At GFC, we have learned that care is both a right and a fundamental component of social justice – one that requires a holistic approach. Through committing to collective care, we embody the changes we desire, and this strengthens our work for rights and justice.

Together, we are strong.

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