As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect lives worldwide, we all look for reasons to stay hopeful during this difficult period.

Thankfully, Outreach is in the hope business.

Read on for updates on the steps being taken in our communities around the world to keep families safe. With the emergency response to COVID-19, neighbors build on the trust and support established through their teamwork in calmer times.

We will continue to update this post with more news of the amazing work underway as it becomes available.


Outreach’s mission remains centered on the wellbeing of our community partners. Just as global priorities have shifted to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, so has our work in the field.

Right now, Outreach field staff is continuing their work with community members. They are facilitating the emergency response to COVID-19 with two important measures:

  1. The construction of hundreds of new, centrally located, public hand-washing stations throughout communities. And, they’re maintaining existing stations already in use.
  2. The distribution of rice, household necessities and animal feed to families whose livelihoods depend on seasonal harvests and working animals. Communities are modifying components of their preexisting short-term Rice Loan programs. This addresses needs without becoming dependent on outside relief organizations.

Here’s how.

6.23.20 – El Abra received ample inspiration and assistance from leaders in the well-established, Outreach-affiliated Nicaraguan community of El Lanito. So, this neighboring community has mobilized into a formidable team of motivated virus-fighters. El Lanito’s experienced leaders have been at their side (from a safe distance) to help facilitate their immediate plans. They’ve also helped establish a framework in which residents there can continue to develop and enhance their ability to address the issues they face well beyond the emergency response to COVID-19.

While still very new to the Outreach Process, a little has gone a long way for El Abra’s team. After observing the mechanics of community-led actions in person during a visit to El Lanito, local leaders from El Abra returned to their village. They’ve reestablished meetings with three groups of residents to hear concerns and and collaborate on prioritizing needs.

Emergency Response to COVID-19, and More

A whirlwind of productivity followed. Communities addressed some less-immediate needs like addressing the issue of smoke in homes from cooking stoves. They also accessed water filters for 20 households. Then, the accessed materials to construct hand-washing stations at schools and for families in rural areas. They provided first aid kits, as well as the aforementioned successful proposal to build 15 “eco-stoves” for families. This drastically reduces the amount of smoke produced during cooking.

It’s important to emphasize again that El Abra is not an official Outreach-affiliated community. They were inspired by the methods and success achieved by El Lanito’s teams over the years. So, they independently mobilized to emulate their neighbors’ work. It’s incredible to consider how far inspiration can travel. First, from Outreach’s facilitators to the El Lanito community years ago. Then, from one person to another over the years throughout El Lanito. Then, to El Abra, and now to you, reading this. We’re so proud to be a part of such incredible work.

6.9.20 – As stay-at-home orders continue throughout India, Outreach’s community-led teams have stayed busy to minimize the disruption for local families. After collaborating on grant applications to access supplies from local NGOs to support continued food distribution. 45 families each received a pantry-filling supply. 25kg of rice, 3kg lentils, 2kg salt, 2kg sugar, 2L cooking oil, and three bars of soap. But conditions are unlikely to improve drastically in the short term. So, teams members continue to prepare and submit grant proposals to help ensure the safety of everyone in their communities.

A community leader in Nepal shares hand sanitizer with a woman waiting in line for food supplies

Community-led teams ensured proper distance and sanitization while gathering for food supplies.

A supply of rice is distributed to a community member by local leaders

Smart thinking and unflagging empathy maximized the impact of community-led efforts to distribute food supplies.

Community members wait patiently for their food supplies.

Thanks to the planning and coordination of community-led teams, lines were orderly, pleasant, and safe.

5.19.20 – Great news from Nepal! Community-led teams in each of our affiliated program locations there have been working diligently for weeks to distribute emergency food supplies to households. Their original plan was to furnish materials to 123 households. But they negotiated with suppliers to lower their costs. They adjusted quantities based on family size. And the teams have instead been able to provide 321 households with enough food to ensure everyone stays healthy, happy, and fed while remaining confined to their homes due to government order.

So basically, this is three miracles: 1) Empathetic, empowered community-led teams working together to care for their neighbors. 2) Teams assess their capacity and refine it brilliantly in order to maximize the benefit it provides, and 3) Hundreds more families now have enough food to eat. Boom boom boom. FANTASTIC.

Clementina and her team share smiles and equipment as they work to produce face-masks for their community.

Clementina and her team share smiles and equipment as they work to produce face-masks for their community.

5.7.20 – In Zambia, members of a local community-run tailoring group took it upon themselves to begin manufacturing face-masks for their neighbors as part of their emergency response to COVID-19. As the Zambian government currently mandates that anyone venturing into public places wears a face mask, the tailoring group’s work provides their community with a sense of normalcy, as well as security. Read much more about their incredible efforts here.

Outreach facilitators prepare to unload rice supplies to community members

Outreach India field team member Rashmi (right) with some of the rice distributed to community members.

Community members in India observe social distancing measures while lining up to receive bags of rice and dal

Community members in India observe social distancing measures while lining up to receive bags of rice and dal.

A community member from India gives a thumbprint to mark receipt of her food supply.

Since many community members are unable to sign their names, they used thumbprints to indicate receipt of goods.

4.21.20 – In India, our field teams helped our partners access resources to equip themselves and their families. They provided 25 kg. of rice and 2 kg. of dal (a high-protein lentil dish) each! Outreach India facilitator Rashmi was on site to help keep distribution running smoothly and safely. As you can see, chalk circles denoted safe distances for those in line as part of the emergency response to COVID-19, and thumbprints took the place of signatures for recipients unable to write their names. So far, more than 200 families have received food supplies, totaling more than 5454 kg of distributed rice and dal!

Bucket supplies purchased by community members in Malwai

Some of the buckets purchased by community members for use in hand-washing stations.

Bucket distribution in Malawi

Teams distributed buckets and soap to local families.

A husband-and-wife team of community leaders pose for a quick photo while distributing soap and buckets to homes.

Community leaders went door-to-door to ensure everyone had a hand-washing station and soap.

4.9.20 – Our friends in Malawi have made the most of every moment to work together to help with the emergency response to COVID-19. Since Outreach-affiliated communities are located in rural locations, far from reported cases in the country’s capital, members still have a degree of flexibility in their social interactions than those living in more densely populated areas. Seizing this opportunity to work together and support their neighbors, community-led teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring every household has its own hand-washing station and supply of soap for the weeks ahead.

Hand-washing stations are as simple to build as they are effective when used. Step 1: Acquire buckets. Step 2: Modify buckets to add spigot. That’s it! Of course, Outreach communities are all about follow-through, so the story continues to Step 3: Distribute hand-washing stations and soap to community members, including door-to-door visits from community leaders to make no one was left out. Step 4: Everyone uses their new hand-washing stations regularly, and stays healthy!

Work continues daily on the construction of more hand-washing stations throughout Outreach-affiliated communities in Malawi. So far, communities have built and distributed 213 stations, with more to come.

A woman demonstrates using the original model of a hand-washing station

BEFORE: Public hand-washing stations were suspended by a wire from a post, rendering them hard to operate and prone to spills.

A woman demonstrates the new model of hand-washing station that now includes a wooden stand.

AFTER: The new stands make hand-washing stations more efficient thanks to added height and stability, which makes them more effective, since more people can easily use them.

Community-led efforts in Zambia are currently focused on manufacturing and maintaining hand-washing stations, as well as making sure each station located in communal areas are as easy to use as they are to access. While the plastic containers used for each hand-washing station were donated by a local businessman, the stands can be easily assembled from available wood.

“It may look simple,” says Outreach Zambia facilitator Kennedy, who shared these photos with us, “but it saves lives.”

In a few short weeks, as 128 new stations have been assembled in eight Outreach-affiliated Zambian communities, nearly everyone has a role to play in keeping themselves and their fellow resident safe. Local leaders acquired materials and coordinated the other teams’ efforts — some work to install taps on each plastic container, and others cut wood for stands to replace older, low-hanging stations, which are hard to operate. Everyone else helps where they could and watch closely during demonstrations on best hygienic practices in silent coordination with the rest of their dedicated neighbors.

Additionally, leaders have been visiting homes to ensure each is equipped with its own hand-washing station and a supply of soap. “They are counted as heroes in the community!” says Kennedy. Having seen their great work, we can say confidently that they are counted as heroes worldwide, too.

Community members from Malawi prepare basins for use in handwashing stations 1

In Malawi, community members inspect and clean materials used to construct new hand-washing stations.

A community member from Zambia repairs a handwashing station

Hand-washing station repair is underway throughout communities in Zambia.

Community members in Malawi, DR Congo and Zambia have been working steadily for weeks to build, repair and maintain the communal hand-washing stations available in public places throughout their respective villages.

3.30.20 – In Zambia, communities are hard at work building 220 new hand-washing stations over the next few weeks.

In Malawi, work continues on the construction of 798 hand-washing stations. Additionally, community teams have furnished 1,596 bars of soap to 805 households throughout the seven communities in which Outreach works.

To overcome the scarcity of commercially available alcohol-based hand-sanitizer in Africa, teams there have also begun manufacturing their own supply to provide to communities, following the CDC’s recommended recipe.

Some extra good news from Africa: Currently, there are very few reported cases of COVID-19 in Malawi, DR Congo and Zambia, so in many instances, our field teams are still able to visit communities in person to help locals with precautionary efforts, though plans are in place for staff to begin working from home in the coming weeks.

Bags of rice to be distributed to community members

Bags of rice have been distributed to community members confined to their homes due to quarantine measures.

Backyard gardens in Outreach's Philippines community 3

A backyard garden (and gardener) from the Philippines.

In the Philippines, community members came together with lightning speed to acquire 68 bags of rice and 33 bags of animal feed to support their neighbors (and their neighbors’ barnyard sources of income), then worked quickly and safely to distribute both to families before the country’s lockdown order took effect.

Backyard vegetable gardening projects have been underway in Outreach-affiliated communities throughout the Philippines for some time. And now they’ve become even more effective in ensuring families are able to grow nutritionally diverse foods while they are restricted from leaving their homes. Beyond the practical benefits, the gardens themselves serve as a constructive outlet for families to get exercise, spend time together, and pass on lessons to their children about the importance of self-reliance as a lifelong skill.

Looking Ahead

Our staff and community partners are implementing long-term measures to sustain and comfort families and preserve the momentum they’ve built through Outreach-facilitated projects. In addition to the efforts above, here are some other, less-photogenic steps our staff and community-led groups have taken:

  1. Temporarily repurposing community-managed organizational funding to furnish small, short-term emergency loans to families unable to earn income due to mobility restrictions.
  2. Modifying due dates for short-term loan collection to allow families greater financial flexibility until conditions normalize.
  3. Working with local banks to ensure emergency resources are available to our international teams, and able to be transferred to local community leaders in a timely manner.

We know that our international teams and community partners will need our support as they, along with the rest of the world, adjust to the new challenges presented by this crisis. We are in regular contact with our teams around the world, and receive daily reports about the steps communities have already taken, as well as ongoing updates outlining the specific needs each community faces as this situation continues to evolve.

Outreach is committed to facing this crisis the same way we face every previous challenge we’ve faced: Together.

How to Help

Please join us in supporting our community partners and field staff around the world as they face this crisis with bravery and love for one another. Your support will save lives.