Church leaders can play an important role helping communities build their resilience and preparedness. They have the established trust and lasting presence in communities to share God’s compassion and equip households with information and tools to maintain agency in this crisis.
How can you do this?
Establish a committee or crisis group (at any level: province, diocese, parish):
- Develop a plan
- Assign roles for tasks (such as liaising with government, organising messaging, mobilising church groups)
- Ensure the group is diverse: women and men, youth and older people
Connect with the health department:
- For up to date local information on virus prevalence and for their health and behaviour advice
- Invite them to use your networks to share health and behaviour advice
- Collect and distribute posters and other material in local languages
- With other church and faith leaders, government and civil society leaders, leaders of groups such as women’s, youth and disability
- Find out what they are doing, who they are working with, what resources they have, how you can work together
Assess the situation so you can determine your priorities for increasing resilience and preparedness:
- Capacities: what are the strengths, resources and assets of the church that can be used to help during the crisis? These might include: relationships; church institutions; the skills of groups and individuals.
- Hazards: as well as the threat of COVID19 itself, what other threats does the epidemic bring? These might include: loss of income or access to food and water due to lockdown or curfew; school closure; discrimination; domestic violence; loneliness; mental health crises.
- Vulnerabilities: who is particularly at risk of the different threats?
- COVID-19 infection – older people, people with disabilities or chronic conditions, health workers, care givers, marginalised groups such as homeless people, prisoners, refugees and migrants
- Loss of income – people on low income, seasonal and migrant workers, daily wage earners
- Lockdown or curfew – single people (loneliness) women and children (increased risk of domestic violence due pressure on relationships particularly in cramped conditions)
- Lack of information – non-native speakers, people with disabilities, homeless people (limiting their ability to follow health advice and government restrictions)
- School closures – children from low income families (hunger due to loss of school meal; cramped conditions can increase risk of domestic violence due to pressure on families)
- Stigmatization – health workers, “the stranger”
Establish a resilience strategy and develop a resilience plan based on your priorities (what you can realistically and distinctively do as the Church) that builds resilience and preparedness by:
- Increasing capacities: draw on your church’s strengths, resources and assets, which you identified at the assessment stage – such as people to share health messages, buddy system, prayer cells
- Decreasing hazards: minimise exposure to, and impact of, the virus by sharing information and public health advice; minimise exposure to, and impact of, other hazards by providing support – such as pastoral support to those in lockdown or curfew
- Decreasing vulnerabilities: target those who will be disproportionately affected by the hazards – for example by: providing soap to vulnerable groups; providing food support during lockdown or curfew; providing pastoral care
Develop key messaging to share with the community and plan other resilience activities
Develop a communication strategy (phone, text, WhatsApp):
- To stay in touch with your team and key network
- To engage with targeted groups
- Update contact information so you are ready to disseminate information