On Friday May 22nd, 8 Mobile School partners from 7 different countries joined our Zoom meeting to attend the very first Mobile School online global exchange. The main objective of the call was to share stories about how the COVID-19 crisis affects the interventions of our partners. Since the beginning of the pandemic, partner organisations showed great creativity and flexibility to cope with the ‘new normal’, and these local best practices were eagerly shared with the network to inspire street workers in other countries.

Hopeful news came from Albania, where our partner Initiative for Social Change ARSIS restarted their mobile school interventions after a 2,5 month lockdown. Today they are one of the few organisations able to take out the mobile school to the streets again to empower kids directly in their communities. In other countries such as Greece, our partners ARSIS Thessaloniki and Ladies Union of Drama are also seeing some restrictions being lifted by the government, although challenges remain, especially in crowded places. ARSIS Thessaloniki has been staying in touch with their target group through webinars and phone calls and the Ladies Union of Drama are slowly restarting their activities by making face masks together with the kids. Our Greek partners and our Romanian partner Salvați Copiii in Iasi, Romania – where the government decided to close all schools till the start of the new academic year in September - are hopeful they will be able to restart more and more interventions in June when more restrictions should be lifted.

©Nisma për Ndryshim Shoqëror, ARSIS

“Hello from Manila! We are still in our enhanced community quarantine, it’s the longest lockdown in the world here”, our partner Virlanie Foundation stated from the Philippines. However, this lockdown didn’t prevent the outreach team of Virlanie to come up with alternative solutions. The organisation has been offering relief support to families in the target areas where the mobile school used to work, and the team set up an e-learning system to continue their educational activities. In Sri Lanka, our brand new Asian Mobile School partner Child Action Lanka (CAL) has been confronted with similar restrictions. CAL also decided to send basic goods to the families they work with, since a lot of them temporarily lost their income due to the pandemic.

Public gatherings are still an issue in most parts of the world, as is the case in Ethiopia, where a five-month state of emergency was declared during which only gatherings of a maximum of four people are allowed. This restriction poses a huge challenge to street work interventions, since they usually attract a large number of children in one place. However, the team of Hope for Justice is doing everything in their power to make sure children living on the street get correct information on the virus and get access to basic sanitary materials to protect themselves against COVID-19. In Ethiopia’s neighbouring country, Kenya, our partner Glad’s House is also facing the challenge of not being able to bring more than five people together. Since most of Mombasa Island is currently in lockdown, a lot of the kids who wash and park cars to earn money, lost their source of income. Thanks to a close collaboration with the county government, Glad’s House is leading the street level response against COVID-19 by hitting the streets on a daily basis to provide the children and families with information, face masks and food. The team not only installed a big water tank in Maboxini where a lot of street-connected youngsters gather, but also shared the idea of handing out booklets with playful activities to continue the educational work with the youngsters on the street.

While street-connected children, their families and the street educators working with them on a daily basis were hit hard by COVID-19, a lot of hopeful and positive stories emerged during the online exchange which once again showed our partners are doing everything it takes to stand by the youngsters on the street, even when the going gets tough!

Special thanks to the participating Mobile School partners: ARSIS Thessaloniki (Greece), Ladies Union of Drama (Greece), Salvați Copiii (Romania), Initiative for Social Change ARSIS (Albania), Glad’s House (Kenya), Virlanie Foundation (The Philippines), Child Action Lanka (Sri Lanka), Hope For Justice (Ethiopia).