Exile Blog

Responding Faithfully to COVID-19

Dear Exile International Family,

We’re with you and praying for you. Our global staff and the boys and girls Exile serves (*they’re prayer warriors) are praying grace and peace over you and all those at risk globally. In a time where fears and uncertainties saturate headlines, we are committed to praying daily for our communities and finding hope — confident, life-giving hope — in Christ.

We’re in this together — even while social distancing – one of our team’s favorite phrases is “tuko pamoja.” It’s Swahili for “we are together.” We say this regularly — joyfully reminding ourselves of our shared pursuits and our need for one another. This simple phrase rings true now — as you, I and billions of men, women and children are pamoja. We are in this together. And we’re finding joy and encouragement in seeing countless people, globally, finding creative ways to be together in spirit — singing together, picnicking virtually, and supporting one another.

Phase 1  Phase 2

How is coronavirus impacting the children & Exile Int’l programs?

Phase 1 

We’ve instituted a COVID-19 Response PlanOn March 18th, Exile International’s teams in Uganda and DR Congo began Phase 1 of our COVID response plan. With schools closing and strict regulations to follow CDC guidelines (social distancing, wearing of masks, no gatherings of more than 10 people, etc.), EI’s staff took the following actions to ensure the best possible care and safety of the children and staff:

Government requirements

  • Congo and Uganda implemented a strict lockdown/stay-at-home order with borders close.            
  • No gatherings of more than twenty people.
  • Only necessary travel.
  • School and community church gatherings are canceled.

Housing

  • Exile’s Congolese and Ugandan teams have connected with well-vetted host families in their communities, to house some of the children during the stay-at-home order.
  • Exile is providing additional food and medical support for the staff and host families to assist those caring for the children on the front lines.

Sanitation & Physical Health

  • All staff and children have been provided resources on how to prevent and treat COVID-19
  • Exile has purchased additional food to support the staff’s families and for any emergency support children may need
  • Exile hired an additional nurse in Congo to assist with teaching and care for children and families – this allows the team to have one medical professional at the center at all times and one that is able to travel to families as needed.
  • Some of the vocational training program beneficiaries are using their sewing skills to make face masks for the staff, children, and community.
  • Exile purchased mobile hand-washing stations, hygiene supplies, face masks, and other materials to teach children and families basic hygiene and ways to prevent COVID-19 in various communities we serve.
  • Exile’s Congolese team recently finished a project to build a new water catchment system at the Pinson School in Goma – this is the second water project Exile has partnered with at the school. These projects will provide access to clean water for 1000+ children, staff, and families in their community.

Emotional & Spiritual Health

  • There is a community support team from Exile’s Congolese team comprised of two male counselors and one nurse taking daily trips to the host families. They are visiting with each child at least once per week. The goal of these trips is to make sure children and families have all their basic needs met (food, water, shelter, medical, etc).
  • All children have contact information for local Exile staff, and they check in regularly via WhatsApp calls or messages to receive counseling, prayer, and words of encouragement
  • Exile teams provide daily counseling to the children and support for the families.
  • Exile’s Congolese team is holding weekly church services at their center for the staff and children who are staying there. It has been a powerful time of prayer, worship, and connection. Exile International has been adhering to government requirements and no more than twenty people are in attendance.
  • Many of the children in Uganda live outside of town so staff is unable to provide regular physical check-ins except for emergencies due to the strict stay-at-home order.

Staff & Communication

  • Exile leadership teams have a large WhatsApp group message with all staff and key support staff at the community programs to perform daily check-ins, provide prayer/words of encouragement, and to keep a sense of community and normalcy.
  • Due to the lockdown, no one in Congo is allowed to travel out of their villages so constant communication and planning for support are key at this time.
  • Uganda staff are working from their homes and Exile has purchased additional routers to help our team communicate with each other and the children while the office is closed.
  • Counselors in Uganda travel to children’s homes 3 days a week (following social distancing and CDC guidelines), to provide 1 on 1 or small group counseling, additional education support, prayer/discipleship, and to check in on any food, water, and/or medical needs.

Phase 2

As of late June, Uganda & Congo have extended their Stay at Home orders indefinitely. Because of this Exile has entered Phase 2 of our COVID19 Response Plan. This includes:

Government requirements

  • Congo and Uganda have continued their strict lockdown/stay-at-home order with borders close. 
  • No gatherings of more than twenty people.
  • Only necessary travel.
  • School and community church gatherings continue to stay canceled.

Housing

  • Exile’s Congolese and Ugandan teams have connected with well-vetted host families in their communities, to house some of the children during the stay-at-home order.
  • Exile is providing additional food and medical support for the staff and host families to assist those caring for the children on the front lines.

Sanitation & Physical Health

  • All staff and children continue to utilize resources on how to prevent and treat COVID-19
  • Exile has purchased additional food to support the staff’s families and for any emergency support children may need
  • Exile nurses continuing with weekly teaching and care for children and families – continuing to have one medical professional at the center at all times and one that is able to travel to families as needed.
  • Some of the vocational training program beneficiaries are using their sewing skills to make face masks for the staff, children, and community.
  • Continuing to utilize mobile hand-washing stations, hygiene supplies, face masks, and other materials to teach children and families basic hygiene and ways to prevent COVID-19 in the various communities we serve.
  • Clean water projects supported by Exile and some of our partners are currently providing access to clean water to over 12,000 individuals in Congo.

Emotional & Spiritual Health

  • There is a community support team from Exile’s Congolese team comprised of two male counselors and one nurse taking daily trips to the host families. They are visiting with each child at least once per week. The goal of these trips is to make sure children and families have all their basic needs met (food, water, shelter, medical, etc).
  • All children have contact information for local Exile staff, and they check in regularly via WhatsApp calls or messages to receive counseling, prayer, and words of encouragement.
  • Exile teams provide daily counseling to the children and support for the families.
  • Exile’s Congolese team is holding weekly church services at their center for the staff and children who are staying there. It has been a powerful time of prayer, worship, and connection. Exile International has been adhering to government requirements and no more than twenty people are in attendance.

Education

  • Schools continue to remain closed following Government mandates
  • Exile has hired teachers in Uganda to visit children’s homes 3 days a week to educate the children in our program, continue monitoring their safety, and provide them with the tools to ensure they continue practicing proper hygiene to slow the spread of COVID19 in their communities. They are working with groups of 1-5 students at a time (following social distancing and CDC guidelines).
  • Some vocational children have been permitted to return to their training in small group settings (following social distancing and CDC guidelines).
  • Universities continue to remain closed and children are at home receiving support from Exile’s counselors.
  • Children in Congo have been provided study materials to keep up with their lessons and receive additional support from staff and host families daily.

Staff & Communication

  • The Congolese leadership team has a large WhatsApp group message with all staff and key support staff at the community programs to perform daily check-ins, provide prayer/words of encouragement, and to keep a sense of community and normalcy.
  • EI’s US team has a large team zoom call withe the Congolese and Ugandan leadership teams each month to check in on staff, children, and programs.
  • EI’s US, Congolese, and Ugandan teams have a large WhatsApp group message to perform daily check-ins, provide prayer/words of encouragement, and to keep a sense of community and normalcy.
  • Exile’s Uganda office has been reopened (following social distancing and CDC guidelines).

 

 

Moving Forward. We will continue monitoring the situation in coordination with local leadership and government officials on the ground in all the communities that we serve. We are following the guidance issued by the World Health Organization and local health experts, and doing everything we can to support the well-being of those we serve and our staff.

Adapting and continuing to provide safety, healing, and hope for children. While many things are changing, our commitment to and responsibility for the safety, health, and well-being of rescued child soldiers and children orphaned by war has not changed. These children are often the most vulnerable in situations like this, so we continue to work for them.

School closures affect more than education. For many children, including those served by Exile, schools provide far more than education. Schools provide stability and security. They also provide countless daily meals and, in some cases, housing. As with many countries, DR Congo and Uganda have closed schools and banned large gatherings. In response, Exile teams are working diligently to adapt and provide for the needs of each child — physically, spiritually and emotionally.

Join us in prayer and hopeful expectation for:

  • Safety and well-being of the children Exile serves and the care staff.
  • Those who are more vulnerable due to age, health, or circumstances.
  • All our brothers and sisters at risk globally — for every child, family, and community.
  • Men and women on the frontlines of this outbreak — namely the nurses and doctors caring for the sick.
  • Peace which surpasses understanding, and confident, life-giving hope in Christ.

May the presence of God and the hope of Christ abound with us.

Matthew & Bethany Williams
Founders of Exile International

Support Exile’s COVID-19 Response Plan

.

 

Stay Connected to Exile