What if Centrelink didn’t exist? What if there was no government support at a time like this? Right now, if you live in Australia, nearly every person reading this blog will be engaging with Centrelink, or the Australian Tax Office, or another government body to receive help and support due to the impacts of COVID-19. You may have
lost your job or had to close your business, and be receiving income help. You may be an employer struggling to stay open and keep employees, accessing PAYG refunds and wage help. You or one of your loved ones might be on a health care card, or a pension, and received round one of $750 to help you get through. You might have accessed some of your superannuation, and the list goes on.
If you can tick one of those boxes, we feel for you because it means you’ve come into hard times already. In the midst of that struggle, take a moment to think about how you would cope if Centrelink didn’t exist? If there was no government help? If you were completely on your own? How would you pay your rent, or your mortgage? More basically, how would you go out and buy food and other essentials for yourself and your family?
This is reality for many individuals and families around the world right now. In Rwanda, the nation has gone into complete lockdown. Borders are closed, and so is the airport. Schools, universities, and education institutes are closed. Transportation is shutdown. Only absolutely essential businesses remain open – hospitals, pharmacies, grocery shops and banks. Every other business is shut down, and the majority of workers are currently unemployed unless they can work from home. Police patrol the streets to ensure that people remain in their homes and are only coming out to buy food or access medical services.
This may sound extreme. But Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa, with over 12 million people living in an area 2.6 times smaller than Tasmania. With a healthcare system that is already struggling and not able to cope with the general health needs of the population, the devastation that would be caused by an outbreak of Coronavirus is unimaginable. So, the Rwandan Government has acted quickly and with strict measures to protect the population as best they can. But the economic cost is staggering, and people are suffering incredibly.
Many Rwandans are already living in poverty, but people survive through small businesses and daily wages – a wage that is paid every day, so they can buy food and meet their daily needs. Right now, with everything shut down due to the Coronavirus lockdown, people have lost the small amount of income they were able to earn.
But unlike those of us who are experiencing the same, for Rwandans, there’s no safety net. There’s no Centrelink. There’s no stimulus package. And the reality is that people are now starving. With zero income, people literally have no money and cannot buy food, so they and their families are going hungry. In light of the severity of this situation, this week, the Rwandan Government has started distributing some food, which is great. But the need is huge, and with no known end in sight, there are so many families who missed out and need help.
But there is hope! During the lockdown, Compelled By Love has committed to 21 days of hope. Together, we can make a massive difference and get food into the hands of those who need it most.
Working with our local partner, we are identifying families the most in need, and will be providing funds to them to enable them purchase food. For those familiar with our work in Rwanda, these are families we are connected with through the Empower program and Education Sponsorship. We’ve already journeyed with these families through so much, we’re stepping up to the challenge to support them through this crisis.
We cannot do this alone – we need your help! In such a dark time, how amazing that you and I have the opportunity to make a real and tangible difference in someone’s life – and to do that even in the midst of our own struggles. These families are just like you and I – they love their children, they work hard, and they are innocent victims of COVID-19. The difference is that they live in a country that is unable to provide them the support to survive that we are so privileged to receive here.
So here’s how you can be part of this! We have a target to raise $20,000 over the next 20 days to provide food to families in desperate need. That’s massive – but it’s totally doable if we all do what we can together. What that breaks down to is:
Whatever your capacity, we can all do something. And if each of us simply does what we can, we can reach that target and make a huge impact!
As we sit in self-isolation, it’s easy to turn inward and think only of ourselves. But in this 21 days of hope, let’s be so grateful for what we have, let’s recognise our privileged position, and let’s be generous - because we can. As we all reach up for the helping hand we need from our Government, let’s be that helping hand for those just like us, who have nowhere to reach.