THE Christian aid agency World Vision is offering its experience of handling trauma during international emergencies to help church leaders in supporting young people in Britain in dealing with the stress of Covid-19.
The move comes after a survey for the charity found that, while half of all Christian parents place mental health at the top of a list of concerns for their children during the pandemic, only a fifth thought that the Church had a responsibility to protect their well-being.
The chief executive of World Vision UK, Mark Sheard, said that, at a time when more people seemed to be turning to the Church, faith leaders did not always have the experience to provide support. “We partner with a large number of churches throughout the UK who contribute incredibly generously in all sorts of ways when we are facing humanitarian disasters overseas,” he said.
“This is now our opportunity to bring some of the expertise we have gained from that back into the faith community. There are ways we can help and equip faith leaders, children’s workers, and so on to care for the well-being of children in their care.
“As a child-focused Christian aid agency, we care deeply about the physical and mental welfare of families all over the world — that is our starting-point. We can bring two things to bear: we have a network of church leaders from all over the world sharing their experiences, and, as we engage with faith communities during epidemics such as Ebola, we have prepared and developed resources which enable them to care for children which are on our website.
“The health and well-being of our children is often the primary concern for most parents. Churches across the UK have been instrumental in providing practical and spiritual support to the communities around them. However, the Church must also advocate for children specifically, and play a leading role in protecting and enhancing their mental health as we come out of this crisis.”
The research by Savanta ComRes, which was commissioned jointly with the fostering agency Northpoint Care, involved interviewing 1388 parents in the UK with children aged 18 or under. The survey found that they were most worried about the impact of Covid-19 on their children’s education.
One child affected by Covid-19 is Stuart, aged 14, who has been in care since he was eight. Before the pandemic, despite being separated from his family, he was starting to establish a fulfilling life, seeing his mother and making friends in school. But, in the past three months, he has become withdrawn, chaotic, and angry, fallen behind with his school work, and faces exclusion.
A World Vision official said: “He misses his old life, he misses his friends, and he misses the progress he was beginning to make. This has set him back considerably, and he is going to need intensive wrap-around care to see him begin to manage his feelings again.
“More than anything, Stuart has missed his mum: he has missed the opportunity to see she is coping, and has missed hugging her more than ever. Stuart’s life in care has been so tough, but Covid-19 has made it a whole lot tougher.”
In Zimbabwe, one teenager, Charmaine Moyo, is worried about her future after the pandemic forced the closure of her school. She was due to take her O levels next year, and dreamed of becoming a nurse. But she has lost 32 of the 65 learning days for the second term of the school year. Charmaine doesn’t know when she will return to lessons.
Now, she is part of World Vision’s project Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education, and obtains learning materials from a community volunteer. She spends three hours a day on her studies, but is worried that she might not be able to complete the syllabus. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Charmaine was a school peer-leader and would interact with other students, but now she is scared of making contact and contracting the virus.