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COVID-19 Updates and Reflections

A letter from our Managing Director to friends of The Recreation Project

Dear Friend,

I’m sure that this note is one of many updates about COVID-19 response that you have received in recent weeks. I even got one from IHOP! Nonetheless, I wanted to share with you some reflections and updates from The Recreation Project. Above all, we’re working to ensure that the end of this crisis finds us prepared to return to our mission of preparing young people in Uganda to thrive through outdoor adventure and transformative play. 

COVID-19 in Uganda

Thanks to early prevention measures, including incoming traveller restrictions, Uganda has managed to keep the impact of COVID-19 to a minimum. So far there have been 55 confirmed cases, 7 of which are recovered, and no deaths. The vast majority of these cases are among individuals in mandatory quarantine after having travelled back to Uganda from abroad. There are no confirmed cases in Gulu, the home of The Recreation Project.

Despite the encouraging containment of the virus in Uganda, the economy is suffering. Uganda’s borders are closed, all essential businesses are closed and the country is under a military-enforced partial lockdown. It is estimated that nearly 90% of the Ugandan economy is informal—meaning that the majority of Ugandans who live "hand to mouth" during non-crisis circumstances are struggling even more than usual. 

The Recreation Project during COVID-19

The Ugandan Government closed all schools and limited public gatherings on March 20th, before the first confirmed case in the country. The Recreation Project closed facilities and temporarily suspended programming as of March 20th for the safety of our staff and the students we serve. I travelled back to the US from Uganda the day that the government closed the borders indefinitely. 

While our operations are temporarily on hold, here are a few things we are working on:

  • I’m using this precious time indoors to rewrite our finance manual! Woohoo!

  • Our facilitators are recording videos of themselves demonstrating how to play some of our simple games as inspiration for families in Gulu and beyond to stay active and entertained! Stay tuned to our Facebook and Instagram pages to see these videos soon!

  • We’re using social media to gather insights from our community in Northern Uganda to inform the redesign of our life skills training modules. We’re asking our community what it means to thrive and what skills and assets are most valuable for overcoming challenges and reaching for success. You can follow along as we learn via our social media channels.

Regarding TRP finances, we have cut all costs with the exception of payroll and rent. If we don’t receive another dime, we can stay in the green until the end of November. If our individual donations continue at their current rate, we can survive until March 2021. This puts us in a better situation than a lot of non-profits right now. Nonetheless, I am working with our board to assess how much we need in a ‘restart fund’ which would allow us to resume our core programs and continue to pay staff for six months. Our intention is to continue supporting our staff in Uganda while simultaneously trying to maintain enough in our ‘restart fund’ that we can ensure that our staff have meaningful work to return to when we reopen. 

How you can support us

Let us know if you can continue your regular gift!

The more information we have about income, the easier it is for us to make decisions about expenditure. If you are already a regular donor, thank you so much for continuing to support our work. You can help us by letting us know if we can continue to count on your regular support. A record number of people have registered for unemployment in the U.S., and we understand that those affected likely need to repurpose what they typically invest in supporting others to taking care of their families for the time being. If you are able to continue your support, please let us know so that we can make informed financial decisions. 

Invest in our future!

If you already give, you can consider temporarily increasing your donation. If you are not a supporter yet, consider making a one time gift or establishing a regular donation. New and increased gifts during this crisis ensure that our restart fund remains intact. Every penny counts and we are grateful for your consideration. Here are some of our current expenses:

  • $10 covers feeding our guard dog ‘Bear’ for one month

  • $75 covers the salary of one of our part-time facilitators for one month

  • $150 covers the rent for our five-acre forest for one month

With these updates, I’ll leave you with a brief reflection on why I can’t wait to get back to work.

In early March, a few weeks before we closed our operations in Uganda, we launched what was meant to be a weekly activity, using an hour during our staff meeting to discuss and reflect on each word of our mission statement, one word per week. That week, we started with “prepare." As we prepared guacamole in teams, we reflected on what it means to be prepared and what it means to prepare young people to thrive. When our team talks about preparing young people to thrive, we focus on two things: resilience and relationships. We believe that when young people are able to build resilience and positive relationships, they are prepared to thrive.

I’ve heard a lot about preparation in the past few weeks. Are the hospitals prepared? Was the state prepared? Are our refrigerators and pantries prepared? In reflection, I’ve thought back to the activity from our staff meeting and wondered, was I prepared in the way that we frame preparation at TRP? Am I prepared to make hard decisions and keep my chin up? Am I surrounded, both physically and emotionally, by people that build and support me? Resilience and relationships. We’re seeing that during this crisis, these matter even more than usual. 

For all of us, this is our first pandemic—but it is not our first crisis, not our first challenge, not the first time we’ve felt uncertain or worried. I hope that this is the first and the last pandemic that our students experience. But like us, I know that it won’t be their only crisis. Resilience and relationships. We can’t wait to get back to work—back to building the resilience and relationships that will equip our students to weather the storms that come. 

Stay safe and healthy, my friends. 


Hannah McCandless

Managing Director

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