The coronavirus pandemic has affected every social venture in the world. From international NGOs to rural community-based organizations like ours in Uganda. Funding for many has stalled or dried up. And many change makers are scrambling to meet the needs of their beneficiaries.
Despite all this turmoil, we’ve learned it’s important for some things not to change: your reason for being and the grand vision for the future. Your organization might make quick pivots in the short-term to survive or help your beneficiaries survive. But your long-term theory of change should remain intact.
Here is how PeerLink Initiative Uganda (PELI-U) is navigating this delicate balance during the pandemic. And nine lessons learned so far that may help other community-based organizations in this trying time.
A CONDUCIVE & SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
First, some background on us. PELI-U is a children, youth, and women-focused NGO. We work in Nyarushanje sub-county, Rukungiri District, in south-western Uganda. Our subcounty is made up of small agricultural communities. Although there are a few institutions. Like primary and secondary schools, a mission-founded private hospital, and a small prison.
PELI-U started many local programs to support teenage girls, then extended to the entire community. These include tailoring and catering skills training for out of school youth and women, a central community library, eight satellite libraries, and sexual reproductive health education. One of our flagship projects is an initiative Pace Able supports. It’s a household-based primary school-aged reading program, which impacts the child, parents/caregivers, and surrounding neighbors. Like Mugyenyi Julius – a casual worker who used to spend all his time in the field making bricks with no time for his children. Now, he spearheads a reading program every Sunday afternoon with his family.
We use a whole community approach and work through a community library and empowerment center. This center serves as a one-stop where community members access services in education, skills development, and health.