When the sisters from the founding institutions of African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC, pronounced AYE-sek) in the U.S. set out to train sisters in Africa with computer literacy and when ASEC developed a hybrid collaborative online delivery of higher education model for sisters in Africa in 2012, little did we know these innovations were precursors to a “new normal" in 2020.
Yet, here we are, soaring above the dark clouds of COVID-19
...because of ASEC’s innovations over the years! ASEC dived right into the “new normal” seamlessly! How? ASEC was designed to utilize information technology to deliver education programs to sisters in Africa. ASEC's Board of Directors, staff and students are all set to engage online to achieve our mission to provide education to sisters in Africa. Therefore, online and remote operations have been part of ASEC’s culture and this has proved critically important to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
Indeed, COVID-19 has taken much from us. We seem to be caught up in a circle of uncertainty, as we seek a Ray of Hope against the threats of the pandemic. Accustomed to constantly working on our "normal doings," we are confronted with the hard question: who are we when all "normal doings" have been taken away from us and we are slowed down to a halt?
Fortunately, we still have the possibility to be available to each other, to family, neighbors and loved ones. We have come to appreciate each other’s presence as an anchor of support to pull through the pains and losses of this pandemic.
“We are in this together," is a common phrase which reminds us daily to support, protect, be kind and care for each other. At ASEC, our weekly online staff check-ins, check-outs and Zoom meetings with students in Africa have brought warmth of presence amidst the chill of social distance and non-physical contact.
The bold steps we took at ASEC to work remotely and deliver our programs in Africa without major interruption were commendable. Kudos to ASEC’s dedicated team of staff in the U.S. and Africa for their continued commitment to keep the programs running online, onsite and in hybrid modes. It could not get any better!
Most importantly, it is the resilience of the sister-students in Africa who kept ASEC’s programs running in spite of the unstable electricity and poor internet connection.The move by the sisters to search for internet signals from on top of rocks, trees, bush or single hot spots in their communities to sustain their participation in the online training was exceptional. The sisters are unstoppable!
In addition to their participation in the educational programs, the sisters continue to minister to the most vulnerable individuals and families: think of the urban poor who had no homes to return to and no food to sustain their lives during the lockdown. The garbage bins they got food scraps from were empty since restaurants and public eating places were closed. The sisters gathered them; shared food and light moments with them; made masks and liquid soap to provide protection against COVID-19 for these families and to keep them safe.
The year 2020 could have been a wasted year for ASEC had it not been for the commitment of the staff and the resilience of the sister-students in Africa. I am most proud of each member of the ASEC staff in the U.S. and Africa.