Plan, Prevent, and Protect
Never having led an organisation through a global pandemic before, it has taken me some time to begin to see above the clouds. As our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has said a number of times, there is no rule book for this with instructions on what to do next.
Predict & Prepare—
Along with our USA and Canada Alliance partner, World Hope began to predict internally not just where the virus it might spread, but what impacts would be felt from it and where they would hit hardest. We wanted to be sure that the vulnerable populations whom we serve around the world would be included in any response – and to make sure that we were equipped to provide one.
Country and program directors checked in with their staff while as a global organisation we sat down to think through our response from all possible angles—from what our commitments are to donors and how we keep them in a rapidly changing landscape; to how to ensure our staff remain safe and healthy; to examining the vulnerabilities and needs among the communities we serve and generating any necessary program changes.
Based on our extensive work in Sierra Leone to mitigate and end the Ebola outbreak, we knew how vital a community-led response to any possible outbreak would be. We also already work to provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) infrastructure for healthcare facilities and clean water to individuals and communities around the world – which are always crucial in mitigating disease outbreaks. Drawing from our Ebola work, we also knew the critical importance of quarantines and self-isolating, as well as the unique challenges that come with maintaining them. Then, of course, we knew that during disasters and pandemics, the most vulnerable among us already – women, children, those previously ill or living with disabilities, the elderly, and minority groups –have the greatest risks for being overlooked or worse, further exploited.
Pivot and Prevent—
When COVID-19 began crossing borders, we began to pivot our focus, implementing preparations and calling on partners. Our protection team is focusing on education around sanitation and hygiene without gender discrimination; on making sure that the survivors of human trafficking or gender-based violence who are now or were recently in our care have resources to stay safe amid the spread of sickness and know that they are not alone.
We have mobilised our Enable the Children staff to work with the families of children living with disabilities on understanding and responding to COVID-19; to ensure they understand the risks ahead and what they can do to mitigate them. Staff from our Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance program are also conducting community sensitisation and we activated our Child Sponsorship team to distribute handwashing stations and conduct hygiene training with students at partnering schools. We have pooled resources earned through our Tap Effect and Thera Metrey social venture projects to educate and supply the most vulnerable in their communities with the sanitation resources they need to prevent transmission.
Our WASH team has worked hard to finish or further improve upon existing WASH systems in healthcare facilities, drilling new wells, replacing pumps, and building new sanitation and hygiene systems. Our piped water team in Cambodia is busy installing new pipes to deliver clean water directly into people’s homes and we have nearly finished our solar-powered water desalination and distribution center in Haiti, which will provide the only hospital on La Gonâve island with clean water, as well as the town itself.
We brought our volunteers home from the Bahamas and are now preparing to deploy COVID-19 test kits to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands through a partnership with the Elan Insurance Group.
Pilot and Protect—
Knowing the extraordinary challenges that social distancing and quarantines present at the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, we also partnered with Disaster Tech to design and build a platform to directly respond to those needs as well.
Called “Get-Support,” this tech-for-good can be used free of charge by churches and other non-profit community organisations who are looking for safe, secure, and simple ways of meeting the needs of their members while not adding to an already heavy administrative load. It empowers members of communities to directly request and respond with support while protecting personal and other identifying information. Learn more here!
On March 27th, our WHI USA office hosted a virtual launch event for Get-Support and so far approximately 40 faith-based and other community organisations have signed up since to use it. Already tens of thousands of people can access a safe and simple space through Get-Support to share their needs (anything from requests for prayers to picking up groceries to helping with childcare—and beyond) and respond to their neighbors. Physical, emotional, and spiritual needs can all be met through this platform that we are so happy to pilot – empowering and protecting communities across Australia, the United States and Canada, where we are also already rolling it out.
Although we have done much already, the pandemic is ongoing and there is much still to do. None of us can do it alone. Let’s gather all the muster of our Aussie Mateship together and love on each other and the world. We can do this!
World Hope International CEO