We all hear so often these days that we are living in interesting times. Like many of you, I am still having difficulty adapting to physical distancing. I maintain my sanity by spending 2 or 3 hours most days out on our beautiful bike trails. I spend about 4 hours each day working on my computer and communicating with our staff here in Iowa and in South Africa.
Everything continues to go well for Blessman International here in Iowa. Even though we had to do our gala this year on a virtual platform, it was even more successful than it likely would have been with a live event. We had over 10,000 people watching the gala on their devices, and financial pledges made it one of our best years ever. With what we learned this year, we likely will in the future have combined live and virtual events. So far, we have not had to lay off any of our US staff, and in fact intern Annie Simmons joined us as Events Coordinator on April 27 after leading a successful gala silent auction in a changing and challenging environment. Thank you to each person who watched, prayed, helped spread the word or provided funding for our ministries.
Beth and I had airline tickets to return to SA on May 20th but have already canceled because of travel restrictions. It is possible that we may have to postpone the remaining 2020 mission trips. We have 4 large teams scheduled for this coming fall and will make a final decision about these teams in June.
Because of the economic downturn here in the US, many people are suffering and even going hungry. It is actually 100 times worse in South Africa. Many more people have lost their jobs and the lock down there is quite strict. Prior to the virus we were helping feed 20,000 children each day, now because of government restrictions we are barely able to help feed 100 children. We continue to do the best we can, and hopefully things will open up just a bit so we can get back to even more humanitarian assistance than we were doing prior to the virus.
Limpopo schools are all closed, so the school feeding programs and even our Celebrate Recovery and sports programs are all on hold. We hope to have both programs back open and running well in June. The need for such things is greater than ever before. Our son, Dustin, is staying in South Africa and doing the best he can to get food parcels, including eggs and produce from our farms, out to a few needy families and children. Our Rotary Club in SA has also been quite helpful in partnering with us to deliver needed items to the impoverished and hurting people. So far, the economic damage that this virus is doing in SA if much more severe than even the health effects.
We continue to move forward with our plans to leverage Rotary grants for menstrual health products essential for girls to be able to attend school and for our ongoing sanitation projects replacing the terrible pit toilets in our area with sustainable, safe and dignified facilities.
Please continue to pray for our staff in South Africa and the people we are doing our best to serve.
Dr. Jim Blessman