Karidat rises to Covid challenge

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THE number of community members requesting assistance continues to rise, according to Lauri Ogumoro, executive director of local non-profit Karidat.

Ogumoro first noticed the bump in January, when flights between China and Saipan were limited in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and many local businesses were forced to furlough their employees; by the end of the month, food assistance requests had increased by 36%. 

She said that was when Karidat realized, “this is going to be a big deal.” 

As the local economy plummeted, Karidat spent much of February seeking ways to increase their resources to match the growing demand for services. This included reaching out to other Catholic charities for donations and obtaining permission to re-appropriate disaster funding originally intended for their Yutu response. 

The non-profit also made arrangements to initiate a one-month rental assistance program, which quickly accrued a lengthy list of applicants that has all but overwhelmed Karidat’s two case workers.  Ogumoro said that when she told one man he was 262nd on the list, “he just started laughing hysterically.” 

“I told him, ‘We’re going to get to you, don’t worry,’” she remembered. “Now we’re up to 494.” 

Ogumoro added that families who are at immediate risk of eviction jump to the front of the list.

In the first two weeks of March, Karidat provided nutritional assistance to 622 families.

“Our usual number of people seeking assistance per month is about 250,” she said. “So that’s a huge, huge increase.” 

In April, Karidat gave out over $10,000 worth of food certificates, delivered via mail using a new call center technique established to maintain social distancing, as long lines were starting to form outside the building. Ogumoro said her team mailed out 25 certificates daily, with additional food delivered directly to families by the United Filipino Organization. 

By the end of April, Karidat had provided 2,790 food certificates and packages in 2020, an eight-fold increase from the 406 packages Karidat had delivered this time last year. Karidat has also offered $51,644 of rental assistance to 133 families, with 520 families on the waiting list.

When asked about the morale of Karidat’s recipients,  Ogumoro said that people were, for the most part, grateful and in decent spirits. She said after two typhoons and austerity, “people are used to being resilient.” 

“They’re used to helping each other, finding a way to get through, finding a way to survive.” 

“The good news is that the Emergency Food and Shelter Program just announced that funding is being released,” Ogumoro continued, adding that the funding will be allotted to Karidat as well as other local non-profits including the Salvation Army and Empty Vessel.

As for how much funding will be necessary to support all of Saipan’s struggling families, and for how long, the future remains as unpredictable as Covid-19. 

“It’s hard to have a perspective on this when we don’t know when it’s going to end,” Ogumoro reflected. “But we do know that there’s a lot of people who are hurting, so we just have to be mindful of everyone’s humanity and try to do our best to help everyone.” 


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