Updated July 6

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread around the world, causing major upheaval in travel, business, supply chains and financial markets.

Here is how the pandemic is affecting our programs, and how your continued support is helping us respond as quickly and effectively as possible.

LPGM programs have been severely disrupted by the spread of the coronavirus.

The people most affected

With our special focus on providing education for people on the margins — especially women and girls — we know that this crisis will disproportionately affect them, especially in places with closer social ties, greater levels of poverty, fewer resources and more fragile healthcare systems.

During this period, LPGM is continuing to support our partners and programs to ensure that all the women, girls, men and boys we serve have the resilience they need to get through this crisis and return to school in a safe and timely manner.

In India

The government of India issued a nationwide lockdown that continued for months. Schools and non-essential businesses were closed, and all students in LPGM-sponsored boarding homes were sent home.

At this time, restrictions are slowly easing even as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase. India’s recent surge in new cases currently makes it the third-highest country in the world, behind only Brazil and the United States.

In a typical year, students would begin returning to school from their summer vacation in June.

We don’t yet know when other students will return to school, but sent the Arcot Lutheran Church an additional $20,000 to use for immediate needs related to COVID-19.

Two boys from Saron Boarding Home in Tiruvannamalai, India, and their mother receive a COVID-19 relief package, containing food and sanitation materials.

Our partners in the Arcot Lutheran Church have:

  • Identified students, families and individuals who are the most vulnerable during this time, including migrant workers, protected classes (e.g. Dalits, indigenous and tribal people), and other jobless people facing extreme poverty.
  • Provided 250 families with food and other emergency provisions. Each packet contains:
    • 10 kilograms of rice
    • Two kilograms of Dal (lentils)
    • One liter of cooking oil
    • One kilogram Sooji Rava (Semolina flour)
    • One kilogram of salt
    • 100g chili powder
    • 100g coriander powder
    • Two bars of Bath soap
    • Two bars of detergent
  • Produced 1,000 face masks to be used by health and sanitary workers in Tirukoilur, the city where Siloam Boarding Home is.
Families at Melpattambakkam Girls’ Boarding Home in India gather to receive COVID-19 relief packets from the Arcot Lutheran Church.
Students in a satellite center of the ALC Community College’s Tailoring program sew face masks that will be donated to health and sanitation workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

In Guatemala

Like in India, schools across the country in Guatemala have been closed and students have been sent home. Additionally, all colectivo transportation (buses, taxis, etc) have been suspended, which many people across Guatemala rely on daily.

At Community Cloud Forest Conservation, Rob and Tara have had to stop the weekly Kids & Birds programs for local students, but their campus is largely isolated and self-sufficient.

Rob Cahill writes:

Now we have a team of five young women with us at the center 24/7. Three of them are doing their university classes online. Two of them are in waiting mode, waiting to see what will become of this school year.   We do not have much coming and going. We try to limit our visits into town to something like once every two weeks. Our entire Advanced WALC team (those that started 2020 as a part of our team at the center) are still going to university with the support of the scholarship part of their pay.

We have an active WhatsApp group for the leadership team. We also have a WhatsApp group for each session of WALC 2019. Keeping in touch like this with as many students as possible is a really good thing.

At this point, CCFC is evaluating alternate plans for the fall WALC program, including providing students with technology that would enable distance-learning options.

In Tanzania

From mid-March through the end of June, Tanzania was also in a nationwide shutdown and students were sent home from schools. However, the Tanzanian government stopped reporting case counts after April, after President Magufuli questioned results from the national laboratory. On June 8, the president declared that “the corona disease has been eliminated by God”, despite reports from the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania reporting that “all evidence points to exponential growth of the epidemic in Dar and other locations in Tanzania.”

Schools across the country were reopened starting June 29.

We’ve been deeply concerned about the safety of some girls, particularly those who were part of the Safe House. Dr. Msinjili and Mwangaza Partnership for Education are attempting to stay in personal touch with as many girls as possible during this time to check in and provide them whatever they may need, including transportation costs.

In the Central African Republic

C.A.R. has a growing number of COVID-19 cases, many of which are in the western part of the country where the Evangelical Lutheran Church of C.A.R. (EEL-RCA) is active. Recent news reports have highlighted how vulnerable people there could be if the coronavirus spreads more.

For a sense of the scale of the plight of some developing nations, consider one of the most critical pieces of medical equipment used in treatment: the ventilator. The United States has some 160,000 ventilators, according to one estimate. Sierra Leone has 13. South Sudan has four. Central African Republic has three.

The Global Coronavirus Crisis is Poised to Get Much, Much Worse – The New York Times

A recent report from UNICEF highlighted that border crossings from Cameroon have been a source of new infections. This is particularly troubling, as the Lutheran Church in CAR (EEL-RCA) is centered in the region bordering Cameroon and is busy with traffic flow in and out of its neighboring country.

What LPGM is doing

  • LPGM staff in Minneapolis is in close contact with program and partner staff around the world to provide support and monitor the local situation.
  • We’re providing additional emergency funding to partners to be used during this time, in addition to providing continued program support for teachers and staff.
  • In our Minneapolis office we’re working and conducting meetings remotely, with individual staff stopping in the office to pick up mail or deposit donations as needed.
  • Following guidelines from the CDC, the WHO and the governor of Minnesota regarding office and work recommendations, both for our local office and our global partners.
A poster of "do's and don'ts" related to COVID-19, used by LPGM-sponsored boarding homes in the Kalrayan Hills of Tamil Nadu, India
A poster used by LPGM-sponsored boarding homes in the Kalrayan Hills of Tamil Nadu, India

How you might be affected

  • Communication with your sponsored student(s) will be delayed while schools are closed in India.
  • You may reach our voicemail instead of a person if you call our office number. We will be regularly monitoring voicemail to call you back as soon as possible.
  • Responding to emails, depositing checks and acknowledging your gifts may take longer than normal.

How you can help

  • Pray daily for the students and partners we serve globally, as well as for healthcare workers, scientists, government officials and all those who are working for the health and wellbeing of all people.
  • Write or send a photo to your sponsored student using the online form on our website. We’ll deliver your message as soon as students can return to the boarding homes.
  • Please give. More than ever, we need you. If you’re in a position to provide the most vulnerable of our neighbors with the necessary support they need, please make an additional gift today.

I know this is a difficult time for many of you, and I wouldn’t ask for more than you can give. But adequate funding ensures we can respond quickly and effectively to our partners’ needs. This crisis changes daily, and we’re working hard to ensure all people have the resources and opportunities they need to thrive.

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Give us this day our daily bread

In Luther’s Small Catechism, he describes “daily bread” in this petition of the Lord’s Prayer as inclusive of all those things we need to support a healthy life and body.

Today, we ask you to join with our global partners and pray for the healthy life and body of all people, especially those who are most vulnerable in this pandemic.

Please take a few minutes today to pray for wisdom, communication, and healing among all those involved with the fight against COVID-19.

Support this work

Your special gifts to Project Education India will help these and future programs that support the health and education of all the students who live and study in LPGM-sponsored boarding homes in India. Your ongoing funding helps us respond quickly and effectively as soon as needs arise.

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Author Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry

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