July 28, 2020
I sincerely hope that you and your family are healthy and well. So much has changed in our daily lives, so many new challenges and new norms. Here in Costa Rica, we too are adjusting and learning to live with COVID-19.
I wanted to take a moment to update you on how the current pandemic has affected our communities in Costa Rica.
- March: COVID-19 arrived in Costa Rica and the country declared a State of Emergency and closed its borders. The Peace Corps suspended all volunteer activities and Bricks to Bread canceled its spring oven building project.
- April: Costa Rica’s first wave of COVID-19 cases were at a minimum averaging less than 400 active cases a day with only 9 deaths. The shutdown begins to have a devastating impact on the economy and quality of life of its citizens so the government began easing some coronavirus measures. Bricks to Bread canceled its Summer July oven building project while at the same time successfully raised enough funds to support its comprehensive COVID-19 Response Project.
- May: Costa Rica experienced an increase of COVID-19 cases. Border regions were put on orange alert with added restrictions due to immigration concerns. Reports confirmed that Costa Rica’s unemployment rate reached an all-time high and the country is in a recession. The May 15 opening of its borders was extended until June 15 and the tourism industry confirmed their worst season since the 2008 recession, predicting the pandemic will have long term effects. Bricks to Bread began its COVID-19 Response Project geared to supporting the families and communities we serve, offering emergency financial assistance, virtual training and workshops when possible, weekly check-ins, and ongoing support of new oven project business planning.
- June: Costa Rica continued to see an increase in cases but was able to keep deaths at a minimum. The country is no longer able to trace the outbreaks and confirmed community-wide contamination. The number of cases increased significantly in the greater metropolitan area where populations are denser and where businesses began opening operations. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America announced that poverty and extreme poverty will increase considerably in the region as a result of the economic recession caused by COVID-19. With the tourism industry already suffering, the June 15 opening of its borders was extended until July 15. Bricks to Bread is forced to redefine its 2020 business plan, reducing the number of new oven projects and committing to relying on local volunteers to complete any new projects. Because we too value the health and well-being of our community, our local summer and fall fundraising events were canceled and community bread sales were suspended until further notice; both decisions having a significant effect on our fundraising efforts.
- July: The country began to see a spike in deaths related to COVID-19 as the number of new cases continued to also increase daily. Although the number of COVID-19 deaths are recorded at 115 deaths as of July 27 or 2.25 death per 100,000 (compared to 14.8 deaths per 100,000 in the USA), Costa Rica remains committed to its nation’s #1 priority of public health and continues to enforce restrictions as needed. Unemployment in Costa Rica is at a historical high, women impacted the most with at 26% unemployment rate. Recent reports indicate that Costa Rica’s economy will struggle as it anticipates a fiscal deficit of more than 6.9% of GDP while public debt will reach 69.7% of GDP. Meanwhile, Bricks to Bread receives positive reports from communities who are able to use their ovens to donate bread to those in need and generate income for their community members. The COVID-19 Response Project guided its two communities with internet access to revise their business plans, chronograms, and budgets amidst the pandemic. Once again border restrictions are extended as the tourism industry pleas for support. Late July they announced a gradual opening of their borders allowing only Canadian, the EU, and Great Brittan tourists to visit beginning August 1st. The restrictions remain for bordering countries, the USA, and many others.
Now, more than ever, women, families, and their communities are seeking Bricks to Bread for support, guidance, and hope during these times of social distancing, health concerns, and increasing economic challenges in the local communities we serve. We know that together, we can keep Bricks to Bread strong, viable, and thriving for many years to come.
Bricks to Bread’s resilience is due to its passion to serve others and our incredible supporters like you. You make Bricks to Bread possible. Thank you for your continued commitment to support women entrepreneurs with their journey to financial security in rural Costa Rica!
Stay informed as another update will be posted soon. As always, wishing you peace and health,
Nancy F. Alvarado
Founder and President
- On July 28, 2020