Alan & Mary Lou Pomeroy

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted daily life even more in South Africa than it has in America. Dense communities and family structures make it almost impossible to carry out social distancing and hand sanitizing practices. Many people already have compromised immune systems due to HIV and tuberculosis. In March 2020, South Africa’s president called for limiting large gatherings, closing schools and universities, and encouraging social distancing and good hygiene in response to the pandemic.

Highlands Community Church supports Thandeka “Thandy” Mavundia-Nzama, the program director for Reach4Life. Reach4Life is a program developed by Biblica in response to the AIDS pandemic that was launched in South Africa in 2004. The program uses Reach4Life Bibles as a basis to teach life lessons in schools, detention centers, drug rehabs, and community and church groups. Peer educators are primarily young people from local churches who go into the schools to teach lessons on topics common to youth.

With COVID-19, the Reach4Life ministry was greatly impacted by the closure of schools and the lockdowns in four countries – South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. Initially the Peer Educators used social media platforms such as WhatsApp to stay connected and do some training during this time of social distancing and lockdown.

Mask and other provisions were needed to reopen Reach4Life in the schools. Masks were readily available as it was a criminal offense to be seen in public without one (six months in jail). The biggest need in reopening schools was the purchase of non-contact infrared thermometers to comply with the requirement of taking the temperatures of the participants in the Reach4Life program.  Thandy requested funding to purchase thermometers for 64 teams in the Reach4Life program, which was approved by the Missions Committee in July 2020.

The thermometers were purchased from a local company Vuwa Holdings, that does projects for the government including fumigating churches and selling thermometers and sanitizers at low cost to churches and faith based organizations. With the lower cost offered, 68 thermometers were purchased along with extra batteries, sanitizers, and gloves.  Fumigation of churches is required for businesses and churches to open, but it is very expensive. Vuwa also fumigates churches that are doing community projects at no cost.  With Reach4Life’s relationship to local churches, many were fumigated and allowed to reopen.

The teams in South Africa are grateful to Highlands Community Church for the many thermometers and supplies that were provided. These supplies not only keep program workers and participants safe, but are also opening doors to even more schools, as the schools see that the teams are bringing their own safety equipment. In some cases, the teams have helped schools with screening students for COVID-19 symptoms and are then invited to stay to teach Reach4Life lessons.