We are inspired by how the leaders of HopeChest CarePoints are adapting operations and programming to both meet critical needs during the pandemic and use current resources to continue providing support to participants.
This week we are highlighting how leaders at Russian CarePoints have been innovative in using technology to keep participants engaged in fun and meaningful activities. Katya Celenina, HopeChest Country Director of Russia, answers three questions about how Russia CarePoints are adapting to continue providing resources for orphanage graduates during the pandemic!
What do current CarePoint operations look like right now?
Katya: Right now, the Vladimir CarePoint staff is working from home. They keep in touch with each participant and conduct weekly individual and group Zoom conferences for them. The staff has been providing food for the most vulnerable participants, as well as baby diapers and other necessities for the young mothers.
Starting from March 30th, Kostroma CarePoint programs have been transferred to “distant mode,” which means:
- all Program Coordinators have held weekly group meetings with their participants using either ZOOM or social media
- the psychologist working with families and young moms have been providing individual counselling by request
- we have held weekly book clubs with CarePoint participants and staff to read and discuss short novels by classic writers
- all CarePoint participants (about 120) were divided into groups according to programs they take part in and according to the level of trust with a certain staff member. The staff calls their group at least once a week to make sure there are no urgent needs. All information is included in a spreadsheet for all the staff to see a general picture.
- thanks to the sponsorship support, we have been able to provide grads who have been struggling due to the loss of work or usual income with groceries and necessary medication. We were also blessed to get the funding to be able to cover some of the rent needs if the situation is critical.
- our volunteers from Leadership Project have been helping with grocery deliveries to our participants. They also took part in the local community action aimed at collecting, packing, and delivering grocery sets to vulnerable individuals in the city of Kostroma
The participants of the Sewing Workshop Program, together with Natasha (who runs the program), have been making face masks and supplying them to staff, program participants and their families, neighbors, and friends in the community. In total, they have made approximately 450 face masks since March 30.
Additionally, two weeks in a row, two grads took part in a local community volunteer project together with Kostroma volunteers and our partners and friends for the charitable fund Joy of Old Age. Together, they collected and put together over 1,900 care kits for the elderly. It was a very rewarding experience for both young men and an honor to be a part of this wonderful community project.
Currently, in the Kirov region all our communication with the grads is done online. The challenge is that it is hard to get them together as a group for some group meetings. So, we mostly contact them individually.
How is COVID-19 impacting our ability to return to our traditional programs and approach?
Katya: At this point in the Vladimir region, the isolation period is still going on. Once the quarantine measures are lifted, we will be able to fully return to our traditional programs and approach. We will also continue to utilize different online technologies to enlarge the population of orphanage grads that we serve.
At this point in the Kostroma region, the isolation period is over, and life is slowly getting back to normal. Small shops have opened. They are discussing the opening of the malls. There are no specific regulations restricting or allowing such places as our CarePoint to work, but we are waiting for at least two more weeks to see more places to be opened (like malls). In two weeks, if the situation does not get worse, staff will start working with participants individually. For us to start our regular work, we will wait for an official permission to hold activities up to 10 people.
Kirov staff believes that COVID-19 is impacting us immensely. Our CarePoint is in the building of the Tech School which is closed right now just like all educational institutions in our country. So, we entirely depend on the fact whether this Tech School will be opened or not. Only when we are back in the building, we will be able to return to our traditional programs and approach
What do long-term operations look like at the CarePoint level, is there a more permanent alteration to the landscape we need to be considering and adjusting to?
Katya: Vladimir staff believes that the pandemic has shown a serious need to update our digital and mobile equipment for our staff and volunteers, so that they could more easily reach the participants who are isolated or removed from the CarePoint for different reasons. We do not see any other areas of our CarePoint ministry that need any alteration or adjustment.
In Kostroma we have discovered that distant modes of work can be used in the future after we get back to normal work. For example, Zoom or other on-line meetings can be held or recorded for the participants who were not able to attend due to objective reasons. Also, we are planning to use the same sources to stay connected to our partners in the U.S. We have also learned a more proactive way of communication with our participants that will increase the level of attendance, quality of services and trust among them and the staff.
Kirov staff believes that it is hard to judge now. We are still hoping to be able to return to regular life in September. Otherwise, we will have to continue doing the programs online. Our biggest concern is the orphanages because they are not equipped for group online communication, and we know that they were really struggling from March to June to finish the academic year due to shortage of computers and smartphones.
Learn more about HopeChest’s work in Russia.