I hope you are all well and adapting to the coronavirus era. I am writing to you to report on how it is affecting Trickle Up.
First and most important, our staff are all safe. Coronavirus has reached each of the countries where we have an on-the-ground presence (Guatemala, Mexico, Burkina Faso, Uganda, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and the United States). Our New York and three international offices are physically closed until further notice, with staff working remotely. All international travel has been suspended for at least the next two months. As you may be doing, we are maximizing use of online tools (Skype, UberConference, Sharepoint, and WhatsApp) and mastering the art of virtual meetings. We are working to meet the specific needs of our global team, including staff with children at home and other caregiver responsibilities; access to food, health services, and other necessities; and the resources required for working remotely.
We are now assessing the impact on our programs. We are committed to complying with all government and public health warnings and restrictions, so we have temporarily suspended training, monitoring, and support visits by our staff and partner field staff. New norms about social distancing (an unfamiliar concept in many of the cultures where we work) are already affecting the functioning of Trickle Up savings groups – typically 15-25 women who meet together once every week or two. Local markets, where many Trickle Up participants sell and/or buy their goods, will be affected.
Challenges like these will require resourcefulness and innovation. Adaptation is part of Trickle Up’s DNA; while our fundamental mission has remained constant since 1979, the ways we deliver Trickle Up have continuously evolved to meet changing conditions and benefit from our research and learning. Many of our recent technology innovations – mobile phones and customized apps for participants, digital training tools for field staff, use of WhatsApp and other communications tools – will have even greater relevance and value. Teaching participants about effective hand washing has been part of our approach in India, and we will use that experience to help promote good sanitation and health practices in other countries.
The very nature of our work fosters the financial independence and social engagement that all people need in times of crisis: helping families increase their income and savings, bringing women together in Trickle Up savings groups, helping them benefit from government social protection programs, facilitating access to banks and local government processes, and building self-confidence and planning skills. We will adapt as needed, seeking opportunities to help Trickle Up participants – people living in conditions of profound poverty and vulnerability – protect themselves against coronavirus and other public health challenges.
As will be the case for many nonprofits, the coronavirus pandemic and its thunderous effect on the economy and stock market will affect our fundraising this year. To protect our supporters and the public, we cancelled our annual gala planned for April 6. We hope that commitments we received and expect from loyal gala contributors will bring us near our original gala goal. To be clear, this email is not a fundraising appeal; we are writing to you as partners in our work to let you know how this crisis will affect Trickle Up. We know that many of you will be allocating some of your charitable funds to relief organizations that are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Whatever the near and longer-term effects of coronavirus, Trickle Up’s work will endure, as it has for 41 years, through many global, national, and local crises. We thank you for being partners in our work and send you our best wishes for continued well-being for you and your loved ones.