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The Coronavirus Diaries: Service is the Highest Form of Worship

The Coronavirus Diaries: Service is the Highest Form of Worship

Wednesday September 16 2020

Sashi Stephens, director of the Women's Development Centre (WDC) in Kandy, Sri Lanka, reports on how the virus has affected the centre's work.

While initially there was general knowledge amongst us of the existence of a new form of virus, little did we expect it to become a global pandemic that would change life as we knew it.

From panic buying and stocking up on food and supplies, to curfews that prevented people from getting outside and risking themselves and others contracting the virus, citizens island-wide had to radically change their daily functioning for their safety.

Working from home became a new experience with attending meetings virtually through Zoom and Microsoft Teams and spending more time with family, which is a positive aspect. However, Sri Lanka saw a surge in sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) during the lockdown period with many cases reported all around the country.  We had no choice but to open a quarantine centre to accommodate the influx of referrals.

Work at the WDC was put on hold as our head offices were closed with staff working from home. Essential programmes such as the shelter for survivors of SGBV continued, with minimum staff working tirelessly in ensuring residents at the shelter were receiving proper care and support. Ensuring the smooth running of the shelter was quite challenging as there were a total of 46 residents (including 12 pregnant women/girls) and 19 infants in need of food, medical supplies/hospitalisation and other essential facilities.

Due to businesses closing down and travel restrictions, food and supplies were difficult to come by. We were without infant formula for one week, causing desperate problems with feeding the screaming babies that still linger in my ears. Through the assistance of the police, philanthropists, etc, we were able to find the essentials and ensure that all residents at the shelter were taken care of.

The WDC was also selected as the district co-ordinator by the presidential task force in identifying and supplying necessities for children’s homes, elder’s homes and disability rehabilitation centres located within the Kandy district of Sri Lanka. Furthermore various relief efforts towards supplying ration packs and cash grants for low-income households and daily wage earners were spearheaded by the WDC. We learned to conduct activities and functions complying with Covid-19 safety regulations to ensure protection of our staff as well as our beneficiaries.

With the easing of Covid-19 regulations the WDC has been able to resume all work, ensuring that safety protocols are adhered to, such as wearing masks, using sanitiser, washing hands regularly and checking the temperature of all staff and visitors every day.

Even though the pandemic has brought both positive and negative change into all of our lives, we have gradually adjusted towards the 'new normal', accepting change and working towards keeping others and ourselves safe.

The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'