As the pandemic took hold last winter, AFSC staff, volunteers, and partners responded quickly with initiatives to help thousands of people meet immediate needs.
Recognizing that COVID-19 magnifies the injustices of our world, they connected those efforts with work for transformative systemic change.
Here are just some of the community initiatives made possible by the AFSC community:
Delivering hygiene kits to Palestinian elders
Many Palestinians living under Israeli occupation have difficulty accessing health care, water, and other essentials—conditions that are especially dangerous in a pandemic.
AFSC’s decades-long history in the region positioned us to work with partners to distribute hygiene kits to approximately 1,000 seniors in Gaza and the West Bank— while continuing to advocate for an end to the Gaza blockade and the recognition of the rights of all Palestinians. “I consider your help to be a form of solidarity. I am happy that there are still people who think of us. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart,” says Mariam Al-Mashwakhi (pictured), a senior in Rafah.
Providing food assistance to community members in El Salvador
El Salvador has struggled with the pandemic while continuing to face a range of issues, including violence, deep poverty, and—in late May—devastating floods and landslides. Since then, AFSC and partners have assisted dozens of families in Mejicanos, Sonsonate, and Tonacatepeque—areas of El Salvador where we have long supported young people working to build peace in their communities. Since this summer, these young leaders have helped deliver food packages and hygiene kits to community members to help them stay healthy and well in these challenging times.
Protecting health care workers in Zimbabwe
When the first COVID-19 cases appeared in Zimbabwe, many health care workers went on strike because of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). To ensure more workers could safely return to treating patients, AFSC—in partnership with the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights—coordinated the purchase and delivery of PPE to Gweru Infectious Diseases Hospital in the country’s third-largest city. We also provided supplies to district hospitals in three more provinces, where we supported local peacebuilders in educating community members on public health practices.
Safeguarding partners in Indonesia
In this pandemic, many of the local organizations we partner with were among those needing support to weather the crisis. In Yogyakarta, Aceh, and East Timor, we worked with these partners to distribute food, medical and hygiene supplies, and other items to their staff, volunteers, and community members—so they could meet their immediate needs as they continued their peacebuilding work. “When we heard the news that we would get self-care aid … we felt very happy because it was like a ray of hope to continue our lives,” said Tri Noviana, program manager at an AFSC partner organization in Yogyakarta.
Supporting communities across the U.S.
Since the start of the pandemic, AFSC has worked with communities across the U.S. to launch a host of community initiatives—including a Farm to Food Bank project in New Mexico, an eviction prevention hotline in Atlanta, COVID-19 testing for migrant farm workers in Florida, and advocacy for removing barriers to food assistance and other safety net programs in West Virginia. AFSC was among the first organizations to advocate for the protection of people in U.S. prisons, jails, and detention centers from COVID-19. Thousands of supporters have sent messages to public officials while our legal team supported several successful petitions for release.