From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities have been disproportionately affected during the crisis.
Groups like the Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH), a federation of Faith in Action, has been working to help minority communities which have been hit hardest by the pandemic.
Bishop Jesse Scott, board chair and founder of NOAH and senior pastor at Word of Life Ministries in Niagara Falls, has been creating spaces for communities impacted by the pandemic, not just in Niagara Falls, but nationwide.
“We’re in the process of implementing a plan along with other partners to better educate people about the testing aspects, how to get help, where to go for that help and the location of food pantries,” Scott said. “And, to educate them on the fact that all the guidelines are not clear at this time. If a person wants to be tested, where do they go? I know they call their doctor but it’s not clear where they should go specifically. Certain guidelines will tell people if they have a cough, a fever or if not, you should go quarantine yourself for 14 days.”
Right now, his organization is trying to partner with the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, local health facilities and other organizations to develop a plan for better educating people. The plan is still in the works but is slated to be released this week.
He has spoken with local pastors who have been working to keep their parishes safe. Those who are a part of NOAH have been reaching out to members of the community and the elderly to help those in need. Along with raising awareness on how to get help during the pandemic, his organization is also working on Faith in Action’s ‘Fight for Fifteen’ efforts. These are to get people paid sick leave, which is an issue that has become more critical amid the pandemic.
In developing Scott said he's encountered numerous challenges.
“Trying to get enough people on board that are facing issues themselves seems prohibitive to them being involved in this, because they’re trying to address their own personal issues,” he said. “To find enough people, even though we're all facing challenges, to just take a moment to help somebody else. One of the challenges is trying to work through this because of the way things are right now, because of this pandemic. It slows the process down. I would say the biggest challenge is coordinating all the efforts and getting all we need with the communication gap right now. It’s still going forward but one of the challenges is trying to bridge that gap of social distancing and still tying to communicate.”
The Rev. Alvin Herring, executive director of Faith in Action, has found the racial injustices related to the pandemic, occurring across the country are egregious.
“The racial disparities that are being reflected in the times of this crisis are appalling,” he said. “No person is immune from contacting COVID-19, yet those who need to be protected most are people who can’t afford to take a day off to watch their children because they need to feed them, and certainly can’t afford to self-quarantine for two weeks. As people of faith and common sense, we know that everyone must be included in the protections and support that are being enacted if we are to slow the spread of this disease and save our people.”
Scott said a lot of people are facing monetary challenges. During this time, he said there are plenty of people trying to help others get through this time. He added there have been some concerns from his parishioners regarding the stress of the pandemic.
“People are looking at there anxieties,” Scott said. “Some of them are elderly people. There are people who are really afraid right now because of the unknown. Some people that even have a fear of that is the world going to end, what’s going to happen, what’s going to be going on, or a lack of understanding right now. People are going to be looking for answers.”