Maria Kidney has been involved in Brighter Communities Worldwide since its inception as co-founder and leader of the first volunteer group who travelled to Kenya in 2002.
Maria works as a consultant with many organisations, non-profit and government sectors, globally developing, implementing and evaluating strategies, programmes and results. She continues to volunteer with Brighter Communities Worldwide and sits on the Irish and Kenyan boards.
Maria is currently in Kenya and to help get a sense of what the last few weeks have been like for her and Brighter Communities Worldwide, we have asked her some questions for this blog:
Q: You’re currently in Kenya, what does COVID19 mean to you?
So for us all our worlds have literally been turned upside down within a matter of hours.
Office closed , events cancelled, meetings abandoned , staff redeployed, incident plans implemented and action taken. The incident of COVID19 may be unique but incident planning to us as a community based organisation is not. We have had many meetings in the past in anticipation of such an emergency which means we were prepared and no time has been wasted.
Q: What is happening now for staff and community leaders?
So our staff and community leaders are now redeployed into the Villages to pass on their trainings and educate on the issues of maintaining health, how to handwash, to keep social distance – how long is two metres exactly and to evaluate the needs within the Communities.
Q: Did anything stop you in your tracks and make you laugh in the midst of all of this?
For our staff team in Kenya we needed to ensure the possibility of working remotely. This needed modems, so myself and the CEO headed into town. Imagine the scene, one of us heads to Safaricom, the other to the bank. We need several modems and phone chargers, and of course to negotiate the best price! So negotiations begin! The chat soon turns to the serious matter of COVID19 and what we can all do to protect ourselves, our families and our Communities. So while they are setting up my modems and before I know it, I’m in the middle of the shop doing a handwashing demonstration for the staff and other customers who are there!
One thing I have often admired is the generosity of the Kenyan people where we live. The staff were so delighted with my demonstration they gifted me a lovely Safricom umbrella, which ideally helped me then to demonstrate how long two metres actually is.
Q: What is your biggest worry in all of this?
And so this is our new normal, for now. Our biggest challenge is to ensure that everyone across the sub-county will know what to do to protect themselves, prevent transmissionand to have the facilities to handwash. We face huge challenges ahead particularly with regard to fundraising. To provide soap and water costs €8.00 per person, we need to reach 47,000 households and in particular to reach the vulnerable and marginalised members of the community.