I wanted to write to you to outline the actions we have been, and are, taking as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold across the world.
Initially in Uganda, Rwanda and Liberia we instigated strict hygiene policies which included purchasing hand washing equipment and fresh water for all of our outreach partners and programmes. We also ensured rigour with mouthpiece and instrument hygiene using Milton Fluid, something we have always done but with greater emphasis placed on the importance of these procedures.
As the countries we work in have started to ramp up the measures to slow infection rate we have taken the following actions, and this is where we stand today:
In Rwanda the Government closed down all education establishments and gatherings in early March and we suspended our programme there with our partner, “Root Foundation”, until further notice.
In Liberia the Government have put in many safety measures and restrictions, drawing on their experience of the Ebola crisis that they went through in recent years. Our team, and the Liberian people, are extremely aware of measures to take to prevent the spread of a virus. We have currently suspended all programmes in Liberia but are reviewing this on a regular basis and will only resume operations if safe and suitable.
Uganda is our biggest area of operation and the country is now effectively in a “lockdown” situation. Brass for Africa has suspended all outreach activity, but we have ensured that handwashing facilities and Milton Fluid have been left in place with outreach partners.Our Kampala training centre is operating with just our Country Director, Andrew Agassi, on site and other administrative team members working from home.
We are very excited to announce that last week, through the provision of data and devices, we have successfully launched an e-learning and video teaching programme. This links all 18 of our Music and Life-Skills teachers and apprentices from their homes to our Director of Music Education, Lizzie Burrowes, who is now back in the UK (on UK Government advice). The teachers are working on professional and musical development and have a full schedule of assignments and structured work set by Lizzie with timetabled video lessons and education sessions. Maria, our Life-Skills officer, has also been using video conferencing and messaging facilities to co-create, with our team, new Life-Skills modules.
The actions we are taking now will ensure that we keep everyone as safe as possible but that we are ready, energised and better equipped to get back to teaching the 1000+ young people we were working with before this pandemic crisis.
The young people we work with were living very difficult lives before the COVID crisis and we know that things have got more difficult for very many of them with the sanctions that are now in place. Now, and particularly when they are able to start rebuilding their lives, they are going to need us and our support more than ever.
I understand that this is a very difficult time for everyone around the world, including you and your families, and I wanted to say that I and every one of the Brass for Africa family and community do not take your support and encouragement for granted.
Music is helping many of us through periods of social isolation, in maintaining healthy minds and in bringing joy in difficult situations, this is the same for those living in Africa and at Brass for Africa we will continue to do all that we can to help make this happen.