The last 2 months have been a whirlwind. A rollercoaster of emotions, and (another) steep learning curve. In the days that followed my realisation of what the pandemic could mean for ATE, I was deep in fear and anxiety.

I was kept awake at night with a series of terrifying questions constantly circling in my tired brain.

How would we raise the money we need to keep the organisation going?                                                                                      How could we do our work without being able to fundraise?                                                                                                          How would the team manage in such different working circumstances?                                                                                       Would we be able to pay our staff?                                                                                                                                                    Was 8 years of hard work about to be lost?

Even more terrifying – how would the people in Lawra manage?

For weeks, all I could hear were the voices of our children – ‘Sister Sarah, I am hungry’.                                                             The children whose voices were the reason I founded ATE all of those years ago.

Keeping the promises that I have made to people in Lawra has shaped a nearly a decade of my life. The idea that a flu virus could destroy the progress that we had made, that it could make life worse for the children and adults whose lives are so much better as a result the work we’ve done…. It was heartbreaking.

9 weeks later, I am blown away by the extraordinary generosity that we have experienced, and incredibly proud of the way that we have been able not only survive the crisis, but that we have done, and continue to do, our absolute best for our beneficiaries. The donations given through our Emergency Appeal have been amazing – we are overwhelmed with gratitude to every person who has given. From £10 to £1500, every single donation has made a difference, every single message of support has lifted our spirits. With this support, we are able to feed hungry people who desperately need it, provide facemasks and soap to keep people healthy, protect the livelihoods of our business owners, make sure our disabled children are safe – we are there for those who need us.

This work has been made possible by the dedication of our staff. From fundraising strategy to food delivery, with hundreds of vital tasks in between, I could not be prouder of every single person we employ. In fear and uncertainty, they have been flexible and committed – with the needs of beneficiaries central to all that they do. Our team is outstanding.

Of course, there have been pockets of devastation that we haven’t been able to prevent. Many of our rural school children have travelled south to work, our mothers of disabled children have drastically reduced incomes, most of our families are eating just once a day – even with our help. It makes my heart hurt.

Over the coming months I’m very aware of the need for continued energy. Some days, with back to back zoom meetings, it’s not easy. But we will continue, will we find a way to help Lawra recover when this is over. Imagining our school kitchens open, with happy healthy children eating and learning and playing – this keeps us moving forwards.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us through this crisis so far. I couldn’t be more grateful.

By Sarah Gardner

The Emergency Appeal is still running, and will be until the end of June, so please do give if you can.