Since mid-March, StreetwiZe • Mobile School made working from home the new standard within the organisation, until further notice. All planned Mobile School trainings abroad were cancelled and no new expeditions will be planned till the summer at least. Unfortunately, this means that the start-ups of new mobile schools in Poland and Georgia are delayed, and a planned exploration in Uganda and Tanzania will be rescheduled as soon as the situation allows. Meanwhile, our staff is taking the opportunity to experiment with a variety of online meeting- and brainstorm tools to keep remotely in touch and to make sure work is continuing in the best way possible.

What about our partners?

For our global partner projects, huge challenges arise to make sure their services to street-connected children can continue. Lockdowns, self-isolation, quarantines, curfews and social distancing measures have forced a lot of organisations to drastically cut their (street work) interventions, at a crucial time when young people and families on the street are struggling to get access to both correct information and the necessary services and hygiene supplies to protect themselves properly against Covid-19.

On four continents, our partners are doing everything in their power to stand with their target group. In Poland, schools are closed since March 16, but street workers of our partner Fundacja Ukryte Skrzydla in Krakow now organise so called ‘Open Hours’ during which children can call or chat with social workers. For many children who do not have a warm nest and are living in dysfunctional families, the lockdowns and stay-home orders are a disaster because how do you stay home, when home is not a safe space for you to be?

In Kenya, many of the young people our partners Child Rescue Kenya, Glad’s House, Kenya Good Neighbors and The Joy Divine are working with, don’t even have a place to go and are spending the night on the streets. These young people simply have no alternative to public spaces where basic hygiene facilities are not available. The risk for these people is that governments will use the outbreak of the corona virus and the declared state of emergencies to forcibly remove the children from the streets and criminalise them for breaking the restriction movements. Therefore, street workers in countries such as Kenya are still hitting the street – taking into account the social distancing measures – to inform and follow-up on the kids and to install hand washing points.

The activities of our Mexican partners Alimentos Para la Vida and Yolia Niñas de la calle in Querétaro and Mexico City also came to a standstill. All restrictive measures are currently in place till the end of April, but it’s still unclear if restrictions can be lifted by then… And in India, our partner EkTara was forced to close their educational centre. The lockdown means the families they work with don’t get their daily wages and have extra mouths to feed at home since schools are closed. Community workers are now available by phone and make sure the right information is available to the people living in the slums.

Something good comes out of every crisis

It’s clear the world is facing unprecedented times, and the uncertainty about the disease leaves a lot of people with a feeling of not being in control. However, a StreetwiZe approach is now needed more than ever to seize this moment to look at the future with confidence and to make the best out of this situation. In the past weeks, street workers have been looking for new solutions to reach their target group, social workers have gone completely digital to ensure continuity of their programmes, teams have created new activities and content to share online, and colleagues have been meeting and brainstorming remotely by using different tools. In business, competing supermarket chains are now joining forces to make sure health personnel gets the opportunity to get their groceries delivered without any hassle, and on a personal level, parents are constantly inventing creative methodologies to teach and entertain their children at home, making sure learning deficits are limited to a minimum. Moreover, organisations such as Digital4Youth are - with the support of the Flemish government - encouraging companies to donate about 10.000 laptops to vulnerable young people who don’t have computer access at home and are therefore unable to complete their homework or take lessons online.

Despite the dark side of the pandemic, people and organisations now have the time to go through a thorough reflection on the why, how and what of their daily life. For government institutions, the corona virus might therefore be an opportunity to come up with long-term sustainable solutions to deliver basic needs to vulnerable children and families. And for Mobile School, the halting of activities might be the perfect time to accelerate on the development of our digital StreetSmart methodology and to refine our offer to street work organisations worldwide. Let us therefore use the learnings from the street to learn the right lessons from this challenging situation.

Be streetwize, stay safe and stay healthy!