Innovation & Hope: Community-level responses to COVID-19


Innovation & Hope

When Past Learnings Meet Pandemic-Specific Challenges 

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly created new challenges for community organizations and vulnerable populations all around the world. But to believe that they were without resources is a misconception worth tackling. From India and Kenya to Uganda and Canada, they combined past learnings with context-specific strategies to adapt themselves to a new reality and best address the needs of their communities: demonstrating, once again, the strength and resiliency of participatory approaches to community development. Here is what we, at ORICE, learned from our partners during our transcontinental panel “Innovation & Hope” (Thursday, May 28, 2020). 

At the SELCO Foundation, a solar energy catalyst for communities across India, Shripathi Hadigal (Program Manager, Global Replication) shared the organization’s first response: to reach out and listen to community partners across their sectors of operations and assess the impact of the pandemic on their safety net. With the disruption of supply chains that followed lockdown measures, the need for a reliable source of income was the more urging one. And here, more than ever, SELCO showed the value of its decentralized technology: allowing solar-powered mask production centres as well as roti rolling entrepreneurs to pursue their economic and daily-earning wage activities in safe isolation. “This is an opportunity for a new economy to evolve. A decentralized economy in which small-scale entrepreneurs have the capacity to deliver their products locally without relying on middle-men”, invites Hadigal. To read more about SELCO’s key learnings, click here

Hillary Omala (Executive Director), from Carolina for Kibera (CFK), a community-led organization that drives positive change and poverty alleviation in the informal settlement of Kibera (Nairobi, Kenya), then raised up the unicity of the challenges experienced by his community members. Indeed, one can ask: how might we regularly hand-wash when water is scarce and attempt to physically distance in an overcrowded area? But, from installing more than 5,600 household hand-washing facilities and introducing a COVID-19 testing centre in the informal settlement to training frontline health volunteers to address the misconceptions about the virus and continuing to deliver its services, CFK stands strong. Despite the remaining challenges of regular food provisions and access to income, Omala emphasizes the effectiveness of having the community members at the core of identifying their own needs and finding ways to address them. More on CFK’s frontline responses here

“…we’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat,” –Jenny Konkin

For The Aids Support Organization (TASO), in Kampala (Uganda), the provision of holistic information to combat the stigma associated with an unknown pandemic was no new challenge. Yet, with more than 100,000 clients receiving direct care from the organization, the difficulty was not only to maintain their access to the previously offered drugs and services, but to extend this access to unregistered clients and encourage the government to do the same. This is achieved through community drugs distribution (which integrated all preventive sanitary measures), telemedicine, and programs re-design to retain clients in care. In the COVID-19 context, Dr. Miya Yunus (Senior Technical Advisor Capacity Development) even sees, in the public’s raised awareness to stop a pandemic that no one has a lot of evidence on, an opportunity to reduce stigma towards all diseases, like AIDS, which have asymptomatic transmission. Here is more about TASO’s response to COVID-19

The last community organization to share their learnings at our event was the Whole Way House Society from Vancouver, Canada. Jenny Konkin (President & Co-Founder) discussed how the pandemic challenged them to entirely re-strategize their programs and services: while the House’s initial mission was to support vulnerable seniors to come out of isolation, the organization now has to ensure their safety and wellness within. Amongst the addressed needs, she reviewed how their care model comprising at-home meal deliveries, virtual medical appointments, financial assistance, and appropriate access to information was adopted in more than 19 buildings in Vancouver. This could happen because of new partnerships with local enterprises and both the municipal and provincial governments. Konkin also mentioned the importance of positive signage for the seniors in the unpacking of pandemic-related misconceptions and in encouraging them to wave and ‘smize’ at each other despite wearing masks: “we want to spread hope, not fear (…) and we knew that words are powerful”. Here is more about the Whole way House response

From the need for holistic information to finding new decentralized ways to carry economic activities and leveraging new partnerships to ensure the accessibility of services, our community partners retain key take-aways from the initial responses to COVID-19. More than ever, it is important to recognize the essential value of local organizations as those having the capacity and experiences to serve their communities. We, at ORICE, are looking forward to working with and learning from them.


Date: Thursday, May 28, 2020

  • Eastern Africa Time (EAT): 7:00-8:30pm
  • Indian Standard Time (IST): 9:30-11:00pm
  • Pacific Standard Time (PST): 9:00-10:30am

Through this pandemic, community organizations all around the world have been facing and tackling new challenges. The Office of Regional and International Community Engagement (ORICE) at the University of British Columbia, is pleased to host a conversation with community partners from Kenya, Uganda, India and Canada who are working at the forefront of the pandemic.  This conversation will highlight their early learnings, innovations and emerging strategies in dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19. Join us for an engaging conversation spanning three continents, where we will hope to share and learn from one another in our collective quest to navigate a new reality and open better and more equitable possibilities for our future.  

Panel dialogue with 4 partners (Kenya, Uganda, India, Canada)

This webinar was moderated by Dr. Harriet Mutonyi (Uganda) and Salim Mohamed (Kenya), In-Country Representatives, UBC ORICE


Dr. Harriet Mutonyi, Uganda representative, UBC ORICE
Harriet Mutonyi is the local representative in central Uganda. Harriet is an Associate Professor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at Uganda Martyrs University. She has published widely on HIV/AIDS, multimodality and literacy studies and recently authored a book titled Gender Equality, HIV/AIDS, and Marriage: Perspectives Based on Teachers’ Lived Experiences (2016).

Salim Mohamed, Kenya representative, UBC ORICE
Salim Mohamed is a Kenyan social entrepreneur dedicated to the advancement of human rights, governance, climate change and large-scale poverty alleviation. Mohamed is the founder of Wasihi Trust, a Kenyan organization, which focuses on addressing youth-led violent extremism solutions in the coastal region. Prior to founding Wasihi Trust, Mohamed also co-founded Carolina for Kibera (CFK), a grassroots poverty eradication organization that pioneered the participatory development methodology through its emphasis on cultivating local leadership and locally-owned solutions. CFK was named a Time magazine and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation “Hero of Global Health,” for its use of sports and public health initiatives to prevent ethnic and gender violence and to fight inter-generational poverty. CFK’s innovative community-owned model is taught in graduate schools around the world, and is recognized for its contributions towards ending ethnic violence and building leaders within Kibera, one of Kenya’s most impoverished informal settlements.

Mohamed is an Eisenhower Fellow, Draper Hills summer Fellow at the Stanford University Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law. Salim has worked with ISL since 2013 and he holds an MSc degree in Development Studies from the University of Manchester (UK).


Dr. Miya Yunus, Senior Technical Advisor Capacity Development, The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO)
Dr. Yunus has worked as the Head of Training and Capacity Building for one of the largest HIV care providers in Uganda, TASO,  for more than 5 years. Currently, Dr. Yunus is spearheading strategies for sustained HIV programming in the era of COVID and working with teams to design innovative solutions, trainings, policies and guidelines for COVID-19.

Hillary Omala, Executive Director, Carolina for Kibera (CFK)
Hillary Omala is a dynamic development leader with verifiable year-after-year achievements, progressive experience in the non-profit and government sectors. He has over 13 years of extensive and diverse experience from new project start-up to the successful turn-around of established operations of diverse community projects and service delivery systems spring-boarding from problem identification, project design, cost analysis, and estimations, requirements analysis/definition, resource mobilization, data collection, reporting, capacity development and facilitation, deployment to transition and support.

Omala has served in various senior management capacities and as a Board member in various organizations. Currently, he is the Executive Director at Carolina for Kibera (CFK). He previously served as Policy and Partnerships Director at Lwala Community Alliance, Executive Director at Kakenya’s Dream, and as the Clinic Services Manager at the KEMRI/CDC Program.

He is a Master of Public Health finalist at the University of Nairobi, majoring in Health Economics and Policy Development, and is currently undertaking research in the area of healthcare financing. He also holds a B.A (Sociology and Communication) from the University of Nairobi and Post-Graduate Diploma in Project Management.

Shripathi Hadigal, Program Manager, Global Replication, SELCO Foundation
Shripathi Hadigal currently works as a Program Manager for the Global Hubs Program at SELCO Foundation. He is part of the team that works towards conceptualization, operation, and coordination of the program in the process of scaling and replicating the ecosystem development work in other geographies with local partners. Prior to this, he was involved with the work pertaining to the applications of space technology in community development. As part of the program, he was involved with the development of rural information centers that use remote sensing data for agriculture monitoring and other developmental applications. He had also co-founded a venture that worked towards developing supporting ecosystems for sustainable farming practices. Shripathi has a Masters in Space Technology from the International Space University, France, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, India.

Jenny Konkin, President & Co-Founder, Whole Way House Society
Since childhood, Jenny volunteered with the elderly, as well as at-risk youth in inner-cities and juvenile detention centers in Winnipeg and Glasgow, which eventually led to international NGO work in orphanages in rural Mexico and Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Jenny received her degree in Psychology from Simon Fraser University and went into Marketing and Management with Earls Restaurants. After her father’s terminal cancer diagnosis, in 2010 she and her brother Joshua took over the management of the Avalon Hotel, an SRO (single room occupancy building) owned by her grandmother in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.  After experiencing the heartbreaking death of a resident who was completely isolated and alone, Jenny, along with her brother Joshua, founded Whole Way House Society in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver in 2013. They now provide community-building programs and tenant support to vulnerable seniors and veterans who are at risk of homelessness, combating loneliness and isolation, instilling purpose and worth among Vancouver’s most marginalized.  

Jenny is a public speaker, has been featured in national and international media publications such as the Vancouver Sun, the Province, Breakfast Television, CKNW, The Huffington Post and many more. She was also awarded a spot on ​Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40 2018 ​ list and ​The Capilano University Alumni Awards of Excellence. She serves on the Board of Directors for Whole Way House Society, The Veterans Memorial Housing Society and co-chairs the Business by the Book committee. She also serves on the BC Housing Supportive Housing Leadership Forum. 

Jenny has travelled to over 30 countries, she loves to play with her two dogs, Jake and Sophie-May and is always exploring her beautiful city of Vancouver. 


The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO), Kampala, Uganda
TASO contributes to a process of preventing HIV infection, restoring hope and improving the quality of life of individuals, families and communities infected and affected by HIV infection and disease.

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Carolina for Kibera (CFK), Kibera, Kenya
Carolina for Kibera exists to develop local leaders, catalyze positive change, and alleviate poverty in the informal settlement of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. We also combine service with responsible research to inform and assist participatory development in Kibera and other informal settlements globally. By maintaining a participatory focus, continuing to invest in youth, and forming key partnerships, the future is full of possibility and growth for CFK.

Support CFK’s frontline responders
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SELCO Foundation, Bangalore, India
SELCO Foundation intends to develop innovative, sustainable – social, technical and financial models that impact climate change and poverty alleviation. They are a collaborative striving to work on solutions, support agents and build sustainable ecosystem for clean energy access. SELCO Foundation seeks to holistically facilitate context driven solutions and opportunities that result in improved well-being and livelihoods for underserved communities through sustainable energy and energy efficient applications. The interventions are developed with focus on local empowerment, replication and ethical scaling.

SELCO’s Innovations during COVID-19
Toolkit | COVID19 Safety Guidelines for Institutions Catering to People with Disabilities​
Contribute to SELCO Foundation’s COVID-19 Response

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Whole Way House Society, Vancouver, Canada
At Whole Way House, our MISSION is to support the vulnerable and isolated on their journey of healing in a safe and welcoming community, equipping them to recognize their inherent worth and purpose. In Partnership with BC Housing, Whole Way House Society provides community building programs and tenant support services for 133 vulnerable seniors and veterans living in the Downtown Eastside at the Veterans Manor. Whole Way House works to provide a safe & secure place to belong and to age well in place.

Make a donation to help Whole Way House
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