For the last three weeks, our CEO has been working alone from the main UK office, and all the volunteer office staff have been working from home. We salute our incredible IT team (all volunteers) who created our robust cloud system. We now, more than ever, fully appreciate the hours that they invested to build our system enabling everyone in the organisation to access the office wherever they are – be it from their homes in the UK or from the office in Belarus. The adjustment to everyone working remotely was seamless and pain-free enabling us to remain focused on our charity work and with the wonders of technology, the UK office team are as connected as ever, seen here on a team meeting.
Of course, all our UK events have been postponed, but we look forward to reinstating them as and when normal service resumes. In the meantime, we have been busy creating interesting and relevant blog articles for consumption – do check them out, and we have been busy in the virtual world too:
Our Youth for Youth group had a fantastic virtual gathering bringing members in the UK, Austria, Belarus and the USA together, with opportunities to socialise and support one another. Plans for our next virtual Jewish youth club gathering are underway which will focus on the values and virtues of volunteering.
With the Reform Synagogues taking their services onto Zoom, Belarus community members have been able to attend Shabbat in a way that until now has not been possible. We have been busy sharing the links to these services with people in Belarus and for the Polotsk Jewish community it was a fantastic opportunity to be joined with Finchley Reform Synagogue, the community with whom they are twinned.
In Belarus, there is currently no official lockdown. People are being advised to stay home if they are elderly or vulnerable, but life is continuing as normal for the most part, which is of great concern. Many people are now wearing masks and gloves, but social distancing is very hard to enforce. In some cases, we have been able to give advice and to some degree, we have been successful in getting the message across. The Polotsk Jewish community advised all their elderly members to stay home and they are now, with our guidance, endeavouring to offer volunteer support to those isolating. In Belarus, this presents a myriad of complex challenges and this is what we are now focusing on in a bid to keep people safe.
We were delighted to see that Polotsk did not do a communal community seder at their community centre, and instead offered a Zoom seder where they were joined by friends from the UK and Minsk. For many of the older members, the Zoom sadly was not within their realms of accessible IT, but we felt reassured that their safety was not being compromised. Next year ‘in the community centre’.
Our team in Belarus managed to bring 2 tonnes of matzah into the country and get it distributed to the communities across the country. A miraculous feat which you can read about here.
So that we are able to keep our followers and supporters up to speed, we are starting to broadcast live on our Facebook page, with opportunities to hear the news directly from Belarus. Don’t worry if you miss the live broadcasts, simply stop by The Together Plan’s page and catch the recorded broadcast. Do like and share while you are there and help us to reach more people.
Watch out for updates of future broadcasts and online events coming up in the next few weeks and click here for an update from Artur Livshyts, our Country Director in Belarus on how we are planning to support communities in Belarus during the coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, stay home and stay safe.