15 Testimonies From Those Facing COVID-19 in a Poverty Context

Take time to listen and grow your understanding of how COVID-19 is impacting those living in poverty.

Warning, this blog contains content that some readers may find upsetting.

In this season, I’ve been learning lots about listening. Really stopping, actively listening and taking more time to hear and understand others.

That’s why in this blog, I want to hold back from speaking too much and simply share with you some of the honest and challenging stories we’re hearing every day from our church partners, colleagues, children and families who we’re serving around the world. Make space to listen to the testimonies of struggle, disappointment, perseverance, fear and hope.

And in the quiet, take a moment to pray again for the poorest of the poor during this unprecedented time. Remember all those whose lives are being shaken by the impact of COVID-19.

All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along. – Galatians 2:10

1. Dorcas, mum and cleaning professional, Kibera, Kenya

As Kenya implements social distancing to curb the spread of COVID-19, the restrictions are a challenge for families in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, where physical distance is a luxury. Mum Dorcas works as a cleaner in Nairobi.

Dorcas facing COVID-19 in Kibera

“It has been a difficult two weeks. We have not been paid for this month since the boss had travelled to India and has been unable to come back.”

“I pleaded with our landlord and paid a partial amount of the rent with money borrowed from a friend.

“While washing hands frequently is paramount to keeping the virus at bay, sometimes water is just not available, or we are forced to make the difficult choice between purchasing water or purchasing food to keep hunger pangs at bay.”

2. Kirian, Armenia, El Salvador

“During the quarantine, we tried to go out and buy some food, but it was difficult with so many people trying to buy food at once. I found some items, but what was left wasn’t in good condition. Other items like rice were sold out. That’s why I’m thankful to have this grocery bag because it contains all the essential products that we need during the quarantine.

emergency covid-19 food supplies in El Salvador

“Many local stores are taking advantage of the situation by increasing prices. For example, a pound of rice usually costs $0.50 is now $0.75. But, thanks to God, the Compassion project brought this grocery bag. In this critical time where we are not allowed to leave our homes, this provision will help us to survive the crisis.

“May God bless, care, and protect everybody around the world. Don’t lose your faith, because God can help us to get out of this situation if we trust in Him.”

3. Adony, Armenia, El Salvador

Facing COVID-19 in El Salvador

“I miss attending the Compassion project. There I can play with beautiful toys like wood blocks, puzzles, and cars. I will enjoy eating the beans from this grocery bag [given by Compassion]. They taste delicious!”

4. Richmond Wandera, Compassion graduate and Compassion UK trustee, Uganda

“Let me first share with you the state of affairs in our country, Uganda. All companies and organisations have been closed. While in the west there is talk of work from home, in Uganda that talk looks and sounds very differently because very few companies have invested in internet or work off-site, type ability to work. It’s very, very complicated here. To see many people actually lose their jobs in the process of their company shutting down.

“Our government and our COVID-19 task-force across the country has taken very extreme measures to say no private cars, no private vehicles are allowed on the roads, and that’s creating very, very serious consequences. Just two days ago I had a gentleman called Julias, he’s in his early 30’s, that called me. He had just lost his child. His wife was pregnant and they had no way of going to a hospital, and so they hired a lorry, which is supposed to be carrying cement and building materials, and that was the vehicle they used to take this dear lady, who was due, to hospital. It seemed something went so badly with the lady’s body and affected the child so two days ago this child passed away.

“…This quarantine period has also shut down farmers and any collective type of communal work. And in Uganda there is very little modernisation of agriculture. We do not have many farms that would have tractors, that would dig. So many people would cultivate in communities, they would dig in numbers of five or ten and that has also been shut down. This means that if this rainy season passes and farming doesn’t happen, then this crisis is likely to continue and cause a very sharp or steep lack on food in the next coming months.

“… The people who are suffering the most [from COVID-19] are the poorest of the poor … in the west there is enough space within houses for social distancing. And then you think about many of the communities in Uganda and how about six or seven people are staying in one room. So when you think about social distancing in that perspective, it’s just an idea that falls apart.”

5. 9-year-old James, Tipitapa, Nicaragua

emergency food supplies in Nicaragua

“We stopped going to classes, and I miss it a lot. The project has always been a blessing for us.”

6. 18-year-old Ezequias, Brazil

“Here in the city most people are avoiding leaving home, they only leave when they really need it, such as to work, go to the market, or buy some medicine. People are avoiding going to restaurants or snack bars. Several jobs are being affected. As our city is small and most people depend on informal jobs, the entire town has been very negatively impacted by the quarantine. The local hospital only accepts care for patients in very emergency cases.

covid-19 testimony from Brazil

“So in order to protect ourselves, we are doing the basics which is to wash our hands regularly, when we go out or come home, and when we do any activity at home. Looking at everything we are facing, we believe in God that we will overcome all of this. The most important thing now is not to lose faith in God. Some churches have their doors closed, even the project is closed, and this is sad. But we believe in God and we pray to God that He will protect us from this pandemic.

“We miss the project so much, the project is part of our life. Even when I didn’t have class, I used to go there to see the teachers and the monitors. But we will overcome all this. God knows what He does. We don’t know God’s plans, we don’t know what He wants for us, we don’t know what that means. Since the quarantine started, I noticed that many people began looking for a church.”

7. Rosibel Project Director, House of Diamonds Child Development Centre, Honduras

“We appreciate Compassion’s support because we were able to buy, pack and deliver food for hundreds of children and their families during the lockdown. When we went house by house to drop the food bags, children and their parents welcomed us with tears in their eyes because they were wondering how they were going to get food for the next couple of weeks.

covid-19 food delivery in Honduras

“The food bags immediately stood out to the residents in this poor community, and we had to figure out creative ways to get the food to our children and families. We were so scared because riots had [begun and] intensified in the community, and we were forced to walk long distances under the blazing sun in order to get to the children. At the end of the day, our church pastor bargained with the protesters and they allowed us to deliver the food.”

We’ve launched a COVID-19 Emergency Appeal to help the most vulnerable children, families and communities. Discover how you can give hygiene, food and housing security.

Learn more about our COVID-19 Appeal

8. Pastor Rossio, Atahuichi, Boliva

“We identified families with a high grade of vulnerability because they live by the day (they earn to eat that day). Some of them are alone or have a single parent, their living conditions aren’t good, or they are big families, under those criteria, we enlisted 15 families.

“We didn’t want these families without provisions, so, along with the team we decided to support these families, despite the restrictions we had. We prepared a food basket for each of these families, and thankfully we had a food provider who had the permission to move around. We bought rice, noodles, milk and other food, the families go to pick up the food from the church. The answer from the 15 families is ‘Thank you very much’, ‘thank you for thinking about us.’ The food is distributed between 9am to 11 am, we plan to do this every week, we don’t give them just a little, we calculate the food could last them for at least a week. Next week we will make a new order.

“Since the quarantine started we advise the parents, there is always disinformation, panic, so as the church, we work with them, and we recommend them and provide them important information such as hygiene, the proper way to wash hands, etc. They are thankful. I trust that when we speak to them with the Word of God, they are filled with peace. We tell them that we are praying for them.”

“My prayer biggest request is that none of the children, who are my responsibility as a church member, may not be affected … [Crying] I can’t imagine seeing one of my children infected or one of my staff who continue providing the food … When we get to know them, their needs are what hurts the most. I believe that God is the one who takes care of them, where we can’t reach, the power and grace of God is there to protect them and cover them.”

9. Hamelma, mum to Almazwork, Ethiopia

Hamelma from Ethiopia

“Watching people with money buy food items in bulk made me insecure. Where would I get that kind of money to store food? This is a difficult time. Even with the money we have at hand, it is becoming difficult to buy food items as the high demand is pushing the price up.”

10. Noel Pabiona, National Director, Compassion Philippines

“The entire Philippines is in total lockdown in order to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus … The fear really in the Philippines is that if this virus gets into a person who lives among the poor living in crowded slum areas, this would be really disastrous for everybody. So that is something that we need to pray for, that is something that the government is really watching out for, and that is something that we in Compassion International are closely monitoring.

“Why? Because most of the children we work with live in such communities. Small houses that are about 12-15 square metres where 6 or 9 or 10 people live together. It’s so cramped that social distancing is something that is impossible to implement, inside the house the house or even out in the community.”

11. Yorka Cáceres, Doctor and Compassion graduate, Bolivia

“I want to thank you for your support and trust when you decided to support a child with scarce resources. Thanks to that help, today I am a professional; I am a doctor and can help many lives.

“We are experiencing a very complicated situation with the pandemic. As a doctor, I have treated patients who had or potentially had COVID-19. I must be honest, at a certain moment, I felt fear, pain and helplessness.

“I’ve held the hand of an 85-year-old patient who just asked me not to die. I have seen big doctors bend their knees with a prayer. I see nurses start a guard with a prayer. I can see that this health emergency has sensitised many hearts. I can affirm that many have accepted Jesus as their Saviour.

“I want to tell you how good God has been with me. A week ago in the emergency service, at a time when it was swamped, we provided support without the bio-security measures. Subsequently, they gave the results and patients tested positive for COVID-19. The staff and I who provided the care had tests taken, and when we were waiting for the result, we entered a moment of anxiety and fear. It was there God reminded me what Psalms 23:4 says: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” I give glory to God and I can only say it was He who took care of me and protected me and the entire staff; no one tested positive. We are all healthy …”

12. Reyna Gutierrez, Project Cook, La Paz Bolívar, El Salvador

“We are taking care of children’s needs. We remembered every day at the project when we saw the joy of the children when we gave them their meal. That moved us to do this initiative [cooking and feeding the local children every day.]

preparing emergency food in El Salvador

“This is a gratifying experience because the children express to us their joy of receiving food and we look at how they immediately eat the food … they feel the love of God through this food.”

13. Rachel, mum to Pacifique, EAR Gakenke, Rwanda

COVID-19 food packages in Rwanda

“With the lockdown, I was not able to get food to feed my children and myself. I earn a living making pottery. When the lockdown was announced, we were told only people selling food were allowed to sell in the market. This was a blow to so many of us. We hadn’t saved money for such times and we don’t even have a garden to harvest from.

“I’m so excited that the project remembered us during this pandemic and they have given us food. I give God the glory. We have been given maize flour, beans, cooking oil, soap, and sugar. As a mother, I’m very happy that my children are not going to die of hunger.”

14. 10-year-old Axel, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

mother and son in Dominican Republic

“At the Compassion project, I was taught the Coronavirus is a pandemic that is affecting our world. Apparently, it’s very serious, because I’ve heard my parents talk about it, too. My tutor taught me that, in order to not catch the virus, I should wash my hands with soap and not leave the house.

“I really like being at home because I spend a lot of time with my family and play with my brother. The first thing I do when I wake up is brush my teeth and wash my hands, always with lots of soap until they’re very clean. I wash my hands a million times during the day. In the afternoon, I sit with my mother to do my lesson from the project. My tutor sends me videos to my mother’s mobile phone. It’s so fun. Before I go to bed, I pray, as my tutor taught me. I really miss the project, and the first thing I’m going to do when I can go back is give my tutor a huge hug and tell her that I missed her a lot. I’m also going to play with my friends and eat all the very delicious snacks.”

15. Paul Omondi, Compassion graduate, Kenya

“In Kenya, social distancing measures are exposing the divide between the rich and the poor thanks to unequal living conditions driven by income inequalities. While washing hands frequently is paramount to keeping the virus at bay, those living in informal settlements are forced to make a difficult choice; either use the limited funds they have to purchase water to keep the virus at bay or purchase food to keep hunger pangs at bay! Be under no illusion, self-quarantine is impractical to achieve in a household of seven persons living in a ten feet by ten feet room.

“[We are told that] ‘people should work from home!’ They forget that the single lady who hawks vegetables on the street cannot work from home! They conveniently forget that the casual labourers in down-town cannot work remotely. And the fact that casual labourers’ do not expect a cheque at the end of the month but must work every single day to earn their daily upkeep. … Curfew is the new norm in town. Anyone found outside after 7 PM and before 5 AM is breaking the law.”

Please join us in continuing to pray for all those who are battling loss, hunger and uncertainty due to COVID-19.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

We launched a COVID-19 Emergency Appeal to help the most vulnerable children, families and communities.

Becca Stanley

Words by Becca Stanley


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Compassion UK Christian Child Development, registered charity in England and Wales (1077216) and Scotland (SC045059). A company limited by guarantee, Registered in England and Wales company number 03719092. Registered address: Compassion House, Barley Way, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2UT.