Written by Simba Smp. From the beginning of the year 2020 up until now, the whole world has been made to sing from the same hymn book due to the effects of an unexpected illness that has claimed the lives of many across the globe. This pandemic has resulted in significant global social and economic disruption, thereby creating arguably the largest global recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. This nasty bug is the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Need I say more! The world over, governments have struggled but in particular, most African governments have failed to come up with robust responses to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 virus. Clearly the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge to health and family dynamics, bringing intense pressure and radical change to systems, organisations and to all of us as individuals. Just like everywhere else, this global pandemic has deeply affected lives in Uganda. As we begin to adjust to the new reality of life within a coronavirus outbreak, those of us at SSL Charity are trying to do our best for others. It is our duty as humanitarians to help those least able to protect themselves.
With movements restricted and many charities not able to undertake their usual activities, it has generally been a massive blow to the welfare of Ugandan senior citizens. Statistically, the resultant effects of the virus has impacted more on the elderly than the younger generations. To give you a clearer picture of the crisis we face as SSL Charity, even before the arrival of COVID-19, many of our members were already vulnerable because of underlying health issues and a lack of food. To make matters worse, the health care facilities are either non-existent or struggle to cope with demand at the best of times. As SSL leadership, it has been heart rending as we have helplessly heard of the illnesses and deaths of some of our members during the pandemic. Unfortunately, we could not do much because of the imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions. Quite frankly, the impact of coronavirus among the elderly in Uganda could be more devastating than anything we have heard so far. Whether rightly or wrongly, the introductions of lockdowns and social distancing only exacerbated the problem. For example, some of the elderly may not be washing and dressing themselves properly, or not eating enough. Quite possibly, they maybe more at risk of abuse.
Following our successful launch in 2019, we had high hopes of continuing to further transform the lives of our members, but little did we know that Mr Corona had other ideas. On our launch day in Fort Portal, we made a vow that we were going to restructure and come back stronger but the corona outbreak hit us very hard. With the lockdowns severely restricting many of the charity events which would normally attract sponsorship from the public, it was inevitable that all prospective sponsorship deals we had lined up were suspended. In early 2020, just before the government enforced closure of our centres, we had covered massive ground in terms of preparation for the envisaged massive fundraising marathon in Kampala but those plans were prematurely quashed as a result of the lockdown and social distancing prescribed by the government. This obviously meant the closure of our operations and the downhill started. But no business has been spared by the devastating bug. Even with the levels of generosity that we have seen lately, those vital funds cannot be replenished and many of the charities that rely on them are struggling to survive.
Simil Senior Life (SSL) maybe a small brand compared to the well known big charity entities but it is imperative that people support us (just like any other charity) as the current situation needs more hands on the deck. In our short time operating in Uganda, we may not have solved all the problems but we still take pride even in the few smiles that our efforts brought to the neglected elderly. Among the positives we have achieved include being able to inspire a sizeable amount of the usually ignorant Ugandan younger citizens to participate in elderly empowerment programmes and getting the local communities to understand that helping elderly citizens was a community necessity. We also managed to get the attention of government officials as evidenced by the old people’s convention held in Fort portal soon after our launch. Yes we take pride in the commendation spelt out at this event. Though there is still a long way to go in terms of support, one of the most heartening things I’ve seen is the spirit of volunteering emerging across Fort Portal and beyond. Before the pandemic, we had started to see an improvement in random individuals volunteering, some digging deep in their pockets to help and more people beginning to understand about volunteering in general.
Since the pandemic is still in our midst, it is important that people grasp the basic facts surrounding COVID-19. Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness. In that regard we urge those lucky enough to be at home, healthy, and not in a high-risk group to do more for the elderly in our communities. However, thanks to the vaccinations drive in progress, there is now a new glimmer of hope. We hope and pray that these vaccines will soon bring the much needed relief and help alleviate the suffering of the Ugandan elderly folks. As the virus gets under control and/or normality returns, we also hope and aim to resume operations at our centres soon. As we speak, we are already on the drawing board, strategising, recruiting and negotiating. As we try to set up shop again, we are appealing to anyone interested to come on board and help make a difference. We can not wait to see those wrinkly smiles back and we know they cant wait too! Please help us to keep the dream going.
As I have highlighted in previous articles, Africans should also desist from relying too much on foreign aid. As our perennial European donors have their own fish to fry, it is an opportunity for patriotic Africans to now play a front role in assisting elderly fellow Africans. Whilst the Europeans shut their borders, there are inundated calls from desperate old people who rely heavily on those foreign donations. Let us see the pride in African solutions for African problems. As SSL get set to revive operations, we are appealing for support from everyone capable, no matter how big or small. But we will be particularly impressed to hear from Africans willing to stand up and being part of the solution. Without much support, it will be difficult for our charity to keep standing alone. From an African point of view, there has never been a time in living memory when we have collectively been more aware of the value of charity in our lives.
My parting short is to reiterate that this appeal is not, of course, about this charity’s survival. It is about the vulnerable beneficiaries and the fellow citizens who are prepared to voluntarily part with their money in order to care for our elderly, be they living in their neighbourhood, the next district or across the world.
You can donate, suggest, ask about how the donations are handled or volunteer in any way that you can. For more enquiries, please email; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simba Smp is the Managing Director. You can contact him direct at; email@example.com.