Help the Children
The UN’s Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to the COVID 19 Crisis warns that “The COVID-19 pandemic is far more than a health crisis: it is affecting societies and economies at their core. While the impact of the pandemic will vary from country to country, it will most likely increase poverty and inequalities at a global scale, making achievement of SDGs even more urgent”.
The health and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been felt around the world, but the virus could have a devastating effect on developing nations that are home to some of the planet’s most vulnerable communities.
In ASEAN, especially in the less developing member countries like Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia, the lockdown measures and restrictions have placed poor communities in a more vulnerable position with no income, and no savings to stock-up on subsistence goods, and no access to social safety net designed to compensate for lost income.
However, the children are the most innocent victims even though they are not the face of this pandemic. But they risk being among its biggest victims. While they have thankfully been largely spared from the direct health effects of COVID-19 at least to date – the crisis is having a profound effect on their wellbeing. All children, of all ages, and in all countries, are being affected, in particular by the socio-economic impacts and, in some cases, by mitigation measures that may inadvertently do more harm than good. This is a universal crisis and, for some children, the impact will be lifelong.
Moreover, the harmful effects of this pandemic will not be distributed equally. They are expected to be most damaging for children in the poorest countries, and in the poorest neighbourhoods, and for those in already disadvantaged or vulnerable situations.
As the current Covid-19 pandemic churns across the globe unabated, ISE Travel has been supporting the Rotary Club of Singapore in managing and coordinating Rotary youth groups in delivering real time service learning activity online under the “Help the Children ASEAN” project.
Working with ISE Travel as logistics coordinator and a local NGO, our students utilized a video conferencing solution to carry out real time service sessions engaging with children in one of the ASEAN countries. During the online lessons under precautionary measures, the children engaged with Singapore students either through demonstration or video presentation with a local translator from the NGO. The second part then proceeded with children doing a practical hands wash session supervised by the NGO. At the end of the lesson, the children were feted with snacks and had a bar of soap, face mask and a campaign poster in local instructions to bring home. While at least 200 children benefited from this, the indirect impact translated to almost 1000 beneficiaries, namely family members of the children supporting the campaign. The project interest has now led to participation of at least 10 other schools.
One project that the Rotary Club of Singapore recently launched is a virtual campaign under the “Help the Children ASEAN” project. At this writing, Singapore youth from 8 schools are engaging via online meeting channels with hands-on planning and execution to reach out to disadvantaged children in ASEAN countries. This is made possible through the coordination and facilitation by our international network of Rotary Clubs and their working partners representing a wide range of vocations.
As fighting disease is one of Rotary’s main causes, we are inviting interested schools to be part of the “Help the Children ASEAN” project in confronting this crisis.
The network of Rotary Clubs in the ASEAN region is ready to support efforts by interested youth groups who are keen to promote proper hand washing techniques, understanding the impacts of Covid-19 disease and teach people ways to stay healthy, that would eventually help in combating the spread of this disease.
Students and teachers shall work with our endorsed logistics support partners in each ASEAN member country and Singapore along the objectives of Service Learning while engaging in real time interaction with the children.
While overseas service trips have unfortunately been held back this year, we believe with the right support and partnership, students can still extend a helping hand to the disadvantaged communities especially children who are also among the most severely impacted victims of Covid-19.
If you believe there is a role for your students to be involved in this project as part of their Values-in-Action or IB CAS programme, we look forward to help in making this happens. Currently the ASEAN Rotary network has a ready line-up of schools and children homes working with service partners (VWOs, NGOs) in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
Unless we act now to address the pandemic’s impacts on children, the echoes of COVID-19 will permanently damage our shared future.
“ Thank you very much to Singapore Rotary Club and students for stepping out to help our community especially the children who are innocent victims of this crisis as their families are suffering due to loss of jobs by parents who are mainly migrant workers. The children and school will always be grateful for your care and concern ” – Mr Riem Bunroeun, Manager, Learning Journeys Cambodia Foundation
“ I think the ASEAN Clean Project helped me to understand how there are really never excuses good enough to stop one from serving the larger community. Even though we were all stuck in our homes with no means to even meet up (let alone go to Cambodia), we still managed to harness technology to make an impact in the Cambodian kids’ lives. This is something that has really touched me and that I’ll carry for a long time!” - Christine Choo, Hwa Chong Institution J2
“ I am thankful to have been given this opportunity in the midst of this pandemic as it allowed me to learn to always be empathetic and think of others. It has also allowed me to learn to be grateful for all that I have and to appreciate the things and people around me better ” - Bernice Ng, Hwa Chong Institution J2
“ This project really showed me that no action is too small to be insignificant. Even though it is just a simple hand washing lesson, my team believes that the benefits these children gain are significant. Moreover, it really reflects the importance of and the power of international collaboration. This project is only made possible through the collective effort of multiple individuals, benefitting many communities throughout ASEAN. Additionally, this project shows me the importance of a united ASEAN, with different people helping one another to safeguard and protect the entire ASEAN community “ - Chua Kai Ming, Cambodia Project Leader HCI J2