Below are brief updates from each of the NPH homes:
On March 22, the Bolivian government imposed a country-wide 14-day quarantine prohibiting people from leaving their homes except to buy groceries or receive medical care. The government hopes to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has reached a total of 40 confirmed cases as of 26 March. With no classes scheduled, our children have new-found free time and it is up to the remaining caregivers and volunteers to devise fun ways to keep them busy and constructively entertained. With a mixture of work, games, and homework, we fill the children’s schedule with a variety of fun and safe things to do. In the morning the children’s schedule can include chores and academic studies, which include cleaning their casita, working with our agronomist Hugo, helping in the clinic, working in the casita of our youngest children, and helping in the library.
Last weekend the older boys and girls worked with Hugo to harvest fish from the fish ponds for the home to eat. The boys used a large net and dredged the pond from one side to the other to catch the fish in their nets. Once collected the older girls helped clean and prep the fish for cooking. On Sunday, we cooked a large lunch for the entire home; each person got half a fish with rice, yucca, salad, and lemonade. “It was a lot of fun being able to go into the pond and fish for our lunch with the older kids,” Renzo explained. “Tío Hugo knows a lot and was teaching us how to clean and prep the fish for grilling.” After lunch the children chose their own activities. They can participate in planned activities or rest and relax. Choices range from table games, drawing, jigsaw puzzles, and writing cards to their godparents to sports like soccer, volleyball, and ping pong, and watching movies together at night.
Since the first case of COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic was detected on March 1, NPH Dominican Republic has been quick to implement precautionary measures and prepare the children to help prevent an outbreak inside the home. These measures included tutorials from NPH doctors ranging from raising awareness to handwashing, as well as talks about the impact of the pandemic. Caregivers constantly remind children to wash their hands and the children find different ways to greet one another without shaking or touching hands.
The children at NPH Dominican Republic have been doing their best to remain proactive and healthy. During this period, they do homework and reading assignments and do fun activities. The home has a psychologist who has stayed with us to collaborate and support the staff and children during these difficult times. NPH Dominican Republic also counts on hermanos mayores (older brothers and sisters) to assist caregivers with the care of the children and work in the kitchen. Since most of the staff has been sent home, the support of hermanos mayores helps to reduce the number of people entering and leaving the home, thus reducing risk of exposure for children and staff.
Dr. Monterrosa, the general practitioner at NPH El Salvador, who along with two nurses has moved into Casa Sagrada Familia for the duration of the pandemic, shares that as of March 31, there were 32 confirmed cases in El Salvador, a relatively low number compared to other countries in the region. The most important thing is to preserve the health of all children and prevent this virus from affecting the NPH family, and our home in El Salvador has taken a number of preventive measures, for example: suspending family visits (in concert with local judges, as needed); proactive outreach to medical specialists who provide treatment for existing complex medical cases in the home; close monitoring of children is in place and all specialists are on alert and accessible; strict policy of referring only emergency cases to the local hospital, which we have not needed to do so far; teaching children to wash their hands properly and give them constant encouragement to use the proper technique; implementing modified social distancing within NPH El Salvador, and providing instruction to staff about COVID-19 and proactively responding to staff questions and requests for additional support.
Spencer Cappelli, former Communications Officer at NPH Guatemala, recounts his experiences returning from the Central American country during lockdown due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, NPH Guatemala has been taking care and busy working with local communities, One Family and Hermanos Mayores, around Itzapa, Guatemala, ensuring the most vulnerable members of society receive support in the face of COVID-19.
Nos Petits Frères et Soeurs, (or NPFS, the French name for NPH Haiti) which has served vulnerable communities in Haiti since 1987, is working to ensure that our kids remain safe, whether they live in the flagship home St. Helene in Kenscoff, 25 miles outside Port-au-Prince, or in our special needs rehabilitation centers Kay St. Germaine, Kay Gabriel, and Kay Elaine supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the country—the very same population that is most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The homes have prepared ahead of time by taking decisive measures and implementing preventive protocols establish by NPHI Medical Services for all of NPH. Instructional posters have been hung around the schools and homes to remind everyone what to do and what not to do. Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer have been stationed around the homes for easy access by staff and children.
Sanitation stations consisting of buckets with soap and diluted bleach solution have been placed around the homes; staff and children are encouraged to use them to clean their hands when access to a standard washroom is not available. Children have been taught to avoid close contact with other children. For St. Damien Pediatric Hospital, three sanitation stations have been set up at the entrance to the hospital for patients and visitors to wash their hands before entering.
Meanwhile in the current state of national lockdown, our caregivers organize activities to keep our children entertained and take their minds off the crisis.
Three weeks ago at Rancho Santo Fe, we already initiated phase two of our coronavirus preparedness plan where we invited all staff who is willing to stay at the Ranch until this is over to do so. Overall, we estimate a core team of 50 individuals who have agreed to stay, and we are hopeful that with locking down the Ranch to the point that very few come and go (some drivers, the security team), we have done all we can to prevent the virus from entering. Our high school and university students can also help out with the work, which is a huge relief. OWS has authorized us to use the Moscati Center as the isolation center in case we have suspected or positive cases and the surgery center overnight unit for more severe cases as it has oxygen connections next to the beds. Dr. Merlin has also offered to join us if it becomes necessary.
The demand of our work still only increases. We were able to bring most Pequeños (high school and university students) home but still need to care for many Hermanos Mayores. Simply getting food or medicines to them is already a challenge. Plus, more and more people living in poverty from our neighboring communities turn to us for food. Last week, we packed another 75 baskets with basic food staples. We will continue to do our best to help those around us, even if it is just a drop in the ocean of hunger.
The NPH Mexico family has been working closely with our medical staff to implement cleanliness and hygiene protocols and social distancing guidelines in each of the homes to ensure our children and employees safety.
First and foremost, the NPH Mexico medical team began by teaching everyone the correct way to wash their hands. Doctors have also given talks about how the virus spreads and the importance of remaining calm and not letting our guard down. Everyone is constantly cleaning the house, rooms, and offices. Anti-bacterial hand gel has become our closest friend, especially when we do not have immediate direct access to a bathroom to wash our hands.
Although traditional classes are suspended, children are not losing out on their education. Teachers have been working hard to prepare learning material for students to use to continue their studies in their homes. Children also have a daily routine that involves cleaning the house and doing their homework and some recreational activities, which the children enjoy the most, to keep hearts and minds fresh. Staff now eat lunch in a separate place from the children, an effort to reduce the risk of contagion.
In short, everyone in NPH Mexico is taking the prescribed preventive measures seriously. The NPH Mexico family understands everyday life cannot stop in the face of a pandemic. We must continue doing what we do best: creating a loving home and providing top quality care to vulnerable children, adolescents, and young adults.
The children at NPH Nicaragua send love to their Godparents and donors around the world. While in lock-down, children are ensuring they are doing their school homework, ensuring they wash their hands and their home is clean.
The medical teams and staff in our homes have implemented preventive measures so that our children and vulnerable communities do not contract or spread COVID-19.
NPH Peru has held talks with staff and children about the severity of the virus, and nurses have given talks on how to wash hands and take additional precautions regarding hygiene. The children are currently on summer break. The start of school has been postponed for two weeks and is likely to be delayed another 15 days, at the very least. Since March 22, outsiders no longer enter the home, and two university students have returned to help cook meals as a temporary measure. Our purchasing coordinator comes into the home only when absolutely necessary.
Caregivers who normally work five-day shifts agreed to remain for the 15-day government-imposed quarantine, with the likely possibility of a 15- to 20-day extension of the quarantine by officials. Currently, children and caregivers are under full quarantine and cannot leave their casitas. All the games, books, and coloring sheets we could find around the home were collected and divided among the casitas so all the kids would have materials to play with to help fight tedium in the coming days and weeks.