A letter from Mainsprings Founder & CEO Chris Gates:
I’ve always said that Mainsprings is a family. That core value has been at the forefront as we respond to the threat of COVID-19 and its many repercussions. These are uncertain times, but we at Mainsprings are steadfast in our commitment to do what we have done daily for the past 14 years; to care for the most vulnerable and help communities realize a new hope for the future. You, too, are part of the Mainsprings family and we deeply hope that you and your loved ones are safe, well, and managing the many changes that this virus has brought to your daily lives.
The first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Tanzania last Monday. While today, there are still only a handful of positive cases in the country, we have taken swift measures to protect our students, residential girls and staff. Because of supporters like you, our campuses and organization were as prepared as possible to act quickly to manage this threat. Our flourishing permaculture farm will continue to provide abundant nutrition to staff and girls on site. Our doctor is in place full-time with a trained team that is incredibly capable of managing a variety of challenges. Your support has ensured that we have what we need to continue to care for our children and communities in Tanzania during this time.
We have taken the following steps to attempt to keep our communities safe.
We have temporarily closed our schools on both campuses. Last Monday, after just a few days of preparation, our incredible teaching staff and medical team worked quickly to provide education to our students about how to stay healthy and the ways they can continue to learn while at home. Classroom teachers helped each student check out at least 3 books from the library, and sent home several assignments and practice exercises. We also sent this information to parents to keep our families engaged and informed of our plan.
Shortly after we announced our school closure, the Tanzanian government announced a 30-day shut down of all schools and large social gatherings in the country. Since then, even more travel and social restrictions have been put in place in Tanzania and across other countries in East Africa. Everyone is hopeful that this early and swift action, region-wide, will help to contain this disease from spreading too quickly.
Both our Kitongo and Kahunda campuses are officially closed to the public, and essential staff moved on campus to continue to support our residential girls, farm and livestock, and campus facilities. This means that at Kitongo, we have our Doctor, Head of Permaculture, Manager of Agriculture, Campus Directors, nurse, matrons, a few teachers and other key staff on campus full time in order to make sure things run smoothly during the quarantine period. In Kahunda, essential staff also moved to the campus for the same reason. Community Permaculture seminars are postponed and Papa’s Restaurant is shut down for the time being.
For staff who will remain off campus during this time, we have created a work-at-home plan so that our teachers can stay in touch with our school families and some tasks and projects can continue to move forward as much as possible. Our team is keeping in close communication over the phone with our scholarship students and others who rely on the meals they get at our school daily as their primary source of nutrition. We are initiating a plan to get them food as needed during this time.
5. Right when the virus entered Tanzania, we requested that all our graduate girls (whose programs and universities are also closed) return to the Kitongo Campus. So ALL of our residential girls from both campuses are still surrounded by matrons, teachers, workers and administrators. Their daily lives, while altered, are still full. They are all using this time to continue to study and read, learn more about Permaculture and assisting our staff to care for our livestock and gardens- while continuing to enjoy their daily prayer time and some extra time with their family. They could not be in a better place thanks to our farms and staff, and they are enjoying this unexpected time together.
6. We have also made the decision to postpone all fundraising events scheduled in the US this spring, including events in Tulsa, LA and NYC. We have also announced that all volunteer trips are postponed or cancelled until the beginning of July at the earliest. We will continue to communicate with interested volunteers as the situation unfolds and more is known in the coming weeks. Our US staff has also been working remotely from the safety of their homes.
Though there is still much uncertainty, we are confident that we have done all we can at this time to protect our students, staff, and residential girls. Again, we are so grateful for your generous support that has allowed us to be ready to act. Over these next few weeks, we hope to share a variety of positive messages from our staff and girls in Tanzania. We hope these will bring some joy in the midst of uncertain times. We appreciate your ongoing support and commitment to the hundreds we serve in East Africa. You make a difference to them each and every day. As we face this together, our Mainsprings family remains determined to nurture brighter tomorrows. We know you do too.