A central aspect of the Bench Marks Foundation’s work is supporting communities living in mining areas in their daily struggles and battles. It goes without saying that there are numerous challenges and problems faced by such communities, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated issues.
With the advent of the pandemic and its devastating impact, Bench Marks had to radically adapt and readjust. As challenging as that bumpy road may have been, the foundation has succeeded. Bench Marks managed to set up a fully functional virtual office, established a new policy approach to working, reformulated systems and carried out the necessary improvements to organisational and individual Information and Communications Technology (ICT), traversing a steep learning curve for staff and community activists along the way. An important part of their process has been the Bench Marks Community Activist Action Training and Problem Solving Programme. By Early February 2020 the organisation had discussed and developed its programme for the year, only to be confronted by the Coronavirus pandemic and the country’s first lockdown.
Almost overnight Bench Marks had to start functioning remotely and faced a significant challenge. How could training and problem solving be conducted virtually in the context of the underresourced communities the organisation works with? In addition, most of these communities are in remote areas with a poor network signal and erratic or no electricity supply. While most community activists had cellphones of some form, few or none could afford the required data for daily communications, especially not for a training and problem-solving programme.
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