If I’m honest, I don’t have a ton of confidence in the modeling or predictions being circulated these days. The ‘experts’ are doing their best, but the models vary widely, and the data seems to breed more uncertainty than ever.
The models predicting the impact that CV-19 will have on global poverty are no different. The Brookings Institute’s recent estimate stated that poor households will increase by 50 million worldwide, while UNU-WIDER (UN University World Institute for Development Economics Research) published a much larger estimate of “half a billion”. Like I said, it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in who’s right, but one thing is certain, the fight against global poverty will take a significant step back because of the virus.
My friend and coach, John Richie, advises those of us in leadership to “position, don’t predict.” I found a lot of wisdom in that. It’s easy to develop a rosy or gloomy view of the future depending on your personality, personal circumstances, etc.
The crisis in our East African, Haitian and Guatemalan communities is real. Markets are closed. Supply chains are disrupted. Prices have increased significantly. People living in extreme poverty environments do not have the margin to withstand extended stay at home orders.
Like most organizations, 410 Bridge has to pivot in response to the crisis. We are positioning ourselves to withstand a variety of outcomes and taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to help. We intend to keep a range of options open while closing as few as possible.
For the next several months, 410 Bridge is focusing on the following priorities.
- Food insecurity has been the priority for weeks. We’re doing all we can with our given resources to direct immediate assistance to the most vulnerable in our communities. We define the most vulnerable as the elderly, special needs, widows/orphans, and child-led households; the people who, without our assistance, are the least capable of coping with the impact of COVID-19. Vulnerable community members are identified by the local churches and leaders in the community. They know who they are, and they ensure that the assistance is directed to those who need it most. Local engagement during the Relief Phase is critical, and we want the local churches to be the hero.
- Through health education/awareness, we’re also doing what we can to dissemination accurate information to our communites. For example, we’ve developed a broad SMS group through WhatsApp though which 410 Bridge disseminates information to community leaders, and they, in turn, forward that information to their respective groups. Low-tech solutions are also being leveraged. Pastors and leaders use megaphones to speak to small groups of people about hygiene, prevention & mitigation, and spiritual encouragement to provide hope and peace to their communities.
Our relief interventions are necessary and immediate but must be short-lived. Relief, lasting longer than it should, does more to disempower than empower. A more effective response is to help restore communities to the level that existed prior to the crisis so that they can return to their journey of development. Businesses – most of which are micro-enterprises – have closed and will have a difficult time re-opening. Schools will need to re-open. School feeding programs re-started. Savings groups re-engaged. In light of this, we’re developing creative ways to help businesses survive or restart, maintain the stability of savings groups, help local churches be a catalyst for restoration, and continue to contain the health crisis as much as possible. Most importantly, 410 Bridge’s restoration efforts must continue to empower the community to participate in their own recovery. This phase is the bridge between relief and development.
Our focus is to help communities position themselves to return to the “development” phase as soon as possible. They’ve made amazing progress over the years to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. We want to do all we can to keep them from losing ground.
Thank you for standing with us as we thoughtfully assist through this crisis.
You can learn more about 410 Bridge’s COVID-19 relief efforts at: