In the UK, daily new cases of Covid are around 50,000. We have 30,000 patients in hospital, and the daily death toll from Covid has exceeded 1,000. The new Kent variant of the virus is 70% more transmissible and the government has called another national lockdown. People must stay at home apart from for essential work, food shopping, medical appointments and taking exercise outdoors. We must remember “hands – face – space”; wash hands frequently with soap, cover mouths and noses to reduce spread and maintain at least 2 metres distance from others at all times. Despite high levels of compliance with these rules, the virus is spreading fast. Total deaths will soon reach 100,000 and many, who have recovered, suffer the long-term ill effects of long-Covid.
The economic impact has been immense. National production is down 10% and many people have lost their jobs or suffered severely reduced incomes. This has affected charities raising funds to help others. Major national charities have experienced substantial falls in donations and been forced to cut programme budgets.
Compared to many charities, Uganda Humanist Schools Trust has weathered the storm fairly well so far. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, a number of supporters have cancelled their monthly bank standing orders. However, most have remained committed to the charity and to children and staff in Humanist Schools in Uganda.
For example, a London musician who has supported our work in Uganda for some years has suffered a severe fall in his income. The closure of music venues due to the pandemic has caused his income from live performances to disappear. Some instrumental teaching has continued on Zoom video, but there has been a substantial fall in students and income. He had no alternative but to cut his standing order to UHST by 90%. However, he is strongly committed to supporting the Humanist Schools in Uganda and hopes to restore the cut once his income picks up again. We find it very moving that someone who has suffered from the economic impact of Covid still prioritises the liberal-Humanist education of needy children in Uganda.
We wrote to supporters explaining the immense negative impact of Covid on the schools we support. After months of closure, they are reopening in 2021 for exam classes only (other students will not be allowed to return until after Easter). It was looking as if they would need to lay off some staff and reduce the pay of those remaining in order to survive.
Many supporters responded by sending additional one-off donations and by raising their monthly standing order payments. This has enabled UHST to provide supplementary grants to the schools to enable them to make them Covid safe. This has involved putting in more stations around the schools where students and staff can wash their hands with soap and equipping the schools with infra-red thermometers so they can regularly check temperatures. We have also provided supplementary funds to offset the loss of fee income and to enable the schools to find the money they need for salaries. As a result of a large bequest from the will of a lady who has supported our charity since its inception, a substantial donation from the proceeds of a will given to us by North London Humanists and a third large donation by a generous benefactor we have also be able to undertake a number of substantial building projects during the Covid closure of the schools: a second boys’ dormitory at Mustard Seed School, a new hall at Isaac Newton School; and work for two damaged communities near the Congo border – 50% completion of a brand new primary school at Katumba where over 100 fathers were killed in an abortive cult uprising, and the completion of a new Humanist primary school at Kanungu, where over 800 people were murdered in another cult atrocity.
We are very grateful to all UHST supporters for sticking with our charity and the schools in Uganda during this difficult time. The work we are doing together is giving hope for a better life to so many needy children. We are determined that the efforts we have made together over the past 10 years will not be frustrated by the pandemic and we intend to restore the momentum the schools had before it started. A big thank you to all!