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Our Response To Covid19 And How You Can Help

Our Response To Covid19 And How You Can Help

Dear Friends,

The world has been shocked by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last few months - and at Sew Powerful, we've been impacted in several ways as well. Let me outline them for you and explain our response. 

A Note About Rapid Onset Emergencies

The international relief and development practitioners are very familiar with categorizing emergencies.

  • Slow-Onset emergencies - a famine that takes six months or more to develop, is an example of a slow-onset emergency.
  • Rapid-Onset emergencies - an earthquake that happens immediately is an example of a rapid-onset emergency.
Covid-19 falls somewhere in the middle. The world had a warning from China, and we are responding globally. This is good news for our program location in Zambia, because we can act now to prepare our very vulnerable community. 

Let me outline our actions in Zambia and how our Covid-19 response is taking shape. Then I'll mention our donor-facing activities and how you can help.

Current Status In Zambia - And Concern For Near-Term Impact: As late as two weeks ago, many people in Zambia had not heard about Covid-19. And according to the Word-O-Meter Live Updates, there are currently only 3 known cases in the country (as of March 24th, 2020). But they are a very vulnerable nation - and in particular, Ngombe Compound, where we serve, is extremely vulnerable for the following reasons:

  • There are a considerable number of underlying health risks, including malnutrition, pre-existing conditions such as a very high HIV/AIDS rate, un-diagnosed hypertension, high blood pressure, and other illnesses that are not being addressed. Many Ngombe Compound residents only eat one meal a day.
  • Extreme Close Proximity - They live in a very closed-in community of 150,000 people. More than half are under 15, and many households have 8 or 10 people living in a one or two-room home.
  • Very Little Stored Food - These families have very little food in their homes. So a shelter in place requirement is nearly impossible without families needing to leave home to get food daily.

For those of you who are familiar with our work in Ngombe Compound, it's a very challenging place to serve. We've been there since 2009. Many larger non-profits do not serve in Ngombe because it is so challenging.

The nation did take quick action and as of Monday, March 23rd, all schools were ordered to close as a preventative measure. As you may have heard us say previously, the Needs Care School is a vibrant place that serves close to 1,500 children and many adults. Many of the kids are orphans. They are amongst the poorest of the poor. Many of them come to the school as a safe-place, even when school is not in session. So this is a challenging situation.

Our Response:

We are working hard with our team on the ground in Zambia to prepare together for the impact of the illness. Here is what we are already doing.

PPE Full-Pledge: We are funding the purchase of personal protective equipment to help our team there stay safe as they serve others. While many people have asked us if sewing face masks (at home here in the U.S.) is something we can ask our community to do, our answer has been fairly simple. That's not our mission. Nor is the making of home-made masks something that can immediately help in Zambia, because of the semi-rapid onset nature of this emergency. 

Full-Staffing Pay Pledge: One immediate question we had to answer was: Are the teachers going to be paid during this time of school closure? My quick response was YES - full pay! Beyond that, I asked our program Director, Esther, to inform the teachers immediately, so that they did not worry about their employment during this difficult time. Their jobs are safe, and their incomes won't be impacted.

If the sewing and soap making teams have to suspend work - and this question comes up - our answer will be the same. We will pay our team there as normal throughout this crisis.

Leading The NGO & Government Response: We are ideally positioned to support the community, and our team is very good at working with large Non-Profit Organizations (NGOs). We are already coordinating how we can play a key role in mobilizing the response effort. Our team is already engaging with the Zambian Government Health officials and members of Parlament to come to Needs Care School, use it as a staging area if needed, and hold a planning event at a minimum so that a good response can be coordinated.

Mobilizing Community Caregivers: Esther, our team leader there has been maintaining a network of Community Caregivers, roughly 90 people, which were initially trained by World Vision, and served HIV/AIDS patients over a decade ago. Over the last few years, we've funded small things to help her maintain this group as a strong community asset (for example, each Christmas, we've funded a little gift of a chicken for each of them for Christmas dinners). The goal was to keep them engaged - and ready to serve the community. And they are! They are the front-line workers helping the sick and dying in their neighborhoods. They have a list of every house they visit, and are trained to give care in a wise and healthy way.

Now, these Community Caregivers are going to be critical as we prepare to respond to the Covid-19 impact in Ngombe Compound.

Covid-19 will impact Ngombe Compound hard. We are standing with them in both financial support and even more importantly, prayer and moral support. Will you stand with us?

As you might know, our new Community Center is not yet funded, but when it is, it will include a beautiful new clinic space. For over a decade Esther has served the community with a maternal health clinic that focuses on birth-spacing education and support. This clinic will be the nicest health facility in Ngombe Compound when it is completed. You can learn more here.

The good news is - we are well-positioned financially to tackle these challenges. Our overhead rate is less than 5%. We are an all-volunteer orgaination, so zero dollars go to pay for U.S. staff.

Our Donor-Facing Response & Activities

The first impact on us in terms of donor funding was when our booth at the Atlanta Quilt show was shut-down mid-event on March 13th, as fears of the illness gripped the U.S.

We subsequently had our entire spring calendar of booth events canceled. This means that we were unable to speak with thousands of people who could have helped us reach our 2020 Purse Making Goal. So we decided to create a 30 Day Online event, we're calling it The iSEWlation Challenge, and it started on March 20th. We're thrilled to have the support of leading Sewing Industry brands, including BabyLock, Quilts, Inc. and Threads Magazine. But more are needed.

The goal is to be faithful to our mission. To call sewists and others who have the heart to serve, to make a purse, and change a life. To serve the least of these in a very difficult place.

  • Regardless of whether the girls in Zambia are in school or out of it for a few days or weeks, they still need the supplies the purse program provides. 
  • Regardless of whether our seamstresses and soap makers are out of work for a few days or weeks, they still need employment and income. 
  • Regardless of whether our donors are in self-isolation and home quarantine, they still have an opportunity to serve in wise and strategic ways with their gifts and talents. 

Our job is to wisely shepherd these efforts and reassure all involved that God is faithful and that together we are Sew Powerful.

How You Can Help

If you'd like to stand with us and help us make a real difference in Ngombe Compound, consider supporting us in the following ways:

  • Prayerfully consider not stopping your existing pledges during this stressful time. But if you need to because of personal financial stress, we'll understand.

Thank you again for your prayer and support. Together we are Sew Powerful.


P.S. I'm reminded of Jeremiah 29:11 as I write this post. It says, "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." We believe in the goodness of God while we cope with the reality of a sick and dying world. He is our hope, and our faith in him is unshakeable. Our team in Zambia is praying FOR YOU, that you will trust God. They pray for you daily - that you will place your faith in him and be blessed so you can be a blessing. It's just another reason why we are so grateful for the chance to work with them - they have great faith - and they know their God. They have been through the fire of HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and many other diseases, and they trust God even while they quickly act to minimize the impacts of health risks.


More About Jason Miles: Jason holds an MBA with an emphasis in International Non-Profit Management, as well as an undergraduate degree in Organizational Management. He served previously as the Senior Vice President of Advancement at Northwest University, and prior to that as Executive Director at World Vision where he served for sixteen years. He co-founded Sew Powerful in 2010 with his wife Cinnamon.

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