Responding to COVID-19 – Global Brigades

Responding to COVID-19

Global Brigades is excited and eager to welcome back volunteers into our Program Countries this summer. After more than a year of suspended operations due to Covid-19, we are taking every precaution to reopen our doors with the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and community members at top of mind.

The table linked below represents Phase 1 of reopening in-country programs. During this phase we will have very limited capacity for each program for total number of chapters, and total number of volunteers per chapter, so we encourage your chapter to confirm your brigade dates as soon as possible with your Program Associate to reserve your spot.

After careful deliberation with our in-country partners, we have decided that only fully vaccinated volunteers are able to brigade in-person this summer. Vaccine roll out in our Program Countries is slow and variable, and we have made this decision for the health and safety of our local staff and vulnerable community partners. We highly encourage all volunteers who wish to participate in-person to seek vaccination options as soon as possible.  Any volunteers who will not be vaccinated by this summer are encouraged to join a TeleBrigade program, or begin planning their brigade for the 2021/2022 school year.

Due to the rapidly evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, all brigade re-start plans are subject to change. Check with your chapter leader or Program Associate  for the latest information regarding your brigade.

Phase 1 Program & Country Reopening Dates

Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate the trust you place in our teams, both nationally and internationally when you participate in our programs. Please review the following frequently asked questions for more information about how we are responding to Covid-19 and how we are preparing for the re-opening of in-person brigade operations.

For additional information, please refer to the following resources:

 

What is GB's assessment process in deciding when to resume operations in a country?

Global Brigades has developed stringent criteria which need to be met prior to considering the resumption of brigade operations in a particular country. These criteria were developed by a committee made up of Global Brigades’ leadership team and in-country executive directors and operations staff, using a variety of resources including travel guidelines from the State Department and local US consulates as well as  in-country business reopening guidelines and guidelines imposed by local governmental bodies. These criteria include but are not limited to:

  • Lifting of entry restrictions for international travellers;
  • Lifting of any mandatory quarantine requirements upon arrival for international travellers;
  • Resumption of normal daily international flights from major carriers;
  • Local lockdown measures and restrictions on movement have been lifted;
  • COVID testing is widely available, without restrictions;
  • Local hospital and ICU capacities
  • Normal tourist activities have resumed locally and without restriction;
  • Vaccines are widely available for participating volunteers, to comply with vaccination requirement for participation.

 

What additional precautions are being taken in light of Covid-19 to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and community members?

Global Brigades is taking a number of precautions to mitigate the risks of COVID transmission on its brigade programs, including but not limited to the following:

  • Operating all in-country programs at very limited capacity and observing these capacity limits for all transportation and lodging.
  • Periodic COVID testing and health screening of all brigade staff.
  • All brigades must arrive on Sundays and depart on Saturdays to limit overlap between volunteer groups, and allow for sanitizing between groups.
  • Imposing mandatory mask/face covering requirements for all brigade participants, staff and community members.
  • Observing social distancing measures at all brigade sites, including lodging facilities and community sites.
  • All participants must take a COVID test prior to departure and provide proof of a negative test to their airline, as is currently required for international flights.
  • All participants will be required to complete a health screening questionnaire prior to departure and on each day of the program.
  • Daily temperature checks.
  • Staggered meal service to limit capacity.
  • Daily sanitation of all vehicles and lodging facilities.
  • Enhanced precautions on brigade days: health screening of community members, sanitizing of community sites, social distancing guidelines, and mandatory use of PPE.
When in person volunteer operations resume, will I need to obtain a negative Covid test prior to my participation?

Yes, to comply with entry requirements all participants will need to obtain proof of a negative COVID test prior to departure for your brigade. For those individuals who are participating on a brigade to Panama, you are required to obtain proof of a negative COVID test administered within 48 hours of departure in order to enter the country. In Ghana, you are also required to take a mandatory quick COVID test on arrival at the airport.

When in person volunteer operations resume, will I need to quarantine upon entry to the country (Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Greece, Ghana)?

No, provided you have obtained proof of a negative COVID test which has been administered at least 72 hours prior to your departure (48 hours for Panama), and you do not present with any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 upon arrival.

In the event that you arrive at the airport with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, and within the last 14 days have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or traveled to a country with confirmed cases, you may be isolated in a medical center or at a designated hotel for monitoring by the Ministry of Health for up to 14 days. This is dictated by the local Ministry of Health.

For Canadian Volunteers: Per the requirements established by the Government of Canada, all individuals returning to Canada are required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon re-entry into the country. 

When in person operations resume, will Global Brigades require me to get the vaccine prior to my participation?

Yes. At this time, Global Brigades is asking that all volunteers who wish to participate in an in-person brigade receive their final dose of the COVID-19 vaccination at least 2 weeks prior to traveling on the brigade. Please visit VaccineFinder for more information on the vaccine and where to get it. Non-US volunteers should check with their local healthcare providers.

In the event that a volunteer cannot receive the COVID-19 this summer, volunteers are encouraged to participate in a TeleBrigade or begin planning for a brigade in 2022, when vaccines will be more widely available to our in-country partners.

What is the protocol if a volunteer presents symptoms of Covid while on brigade? What insurance coverage do they have?

In the event that a volunteer presents symptoms of COVID-19 while on the brigade, they will be separated and quarantined at the lodging facility and monitored by a local staff health care professional, while a COVID test can be arranged for. Upon consultation by a local physician if the symptoms are mild, the volunteer will remain quarantined and under observation at their lodging facility. If the symptoms are serious and the volunteer is at higher risk of complication due to pre-existing conditions, they will be transported to a medical facility in the capital city as recommended by their treating physician. The duration of quarantine will last between 10-14 days depending on severity and the recommendations of the medical team.

All volunteer participants are automatically covered under a base travel insurance policy for the duration of their program, and have the option to upgrade the policy limits for an additional fee. The base policy covers medical expenses for emergency medical treatment related to a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Global Brigades will also be covering all volunteers under a unique trip-interruption policy specific to COVID-19. This policy will cover any expenses due to evacuation, trip interruption, or trip cancellation due to COVID-19, as well as any expenses incurred due to mandatory quarantine up to $2,500 USD.

Volunteers wishing to secure additional travel insurance coverage are encouraged to do so through third-party providers such as Square Mouth.

What is the protocol if a community member presents symptoms of Covid while we are on brigade?

All community members at the brigade site will be pre-screened for COVID-19. Any individuals which present symptoms or have had recent contact with individuals who have tested positive, will not be able to enter the brigade site.  Participating community members will be required to practice social distancing and wear masks while interacting with staff and volunteers.

Is GB going to provide PPE for volunteers and community members? Do we need to bring masks/equipment with us?

Yes, Global Brigades will have PPE (masks and gloves) available for volunteer participants as well as community members. However to ensure these resources are plentiful we would also encourage all volunteers to bring their own supplies of PPE, particularly masks.

What happens if the postponement period is extended and my brigade is postponed again due to Covid?

In the case that Global Brigades determines that criteria have still not been met in order to restart in-person brigade programs, your Program Associate will work closely with you to provide options on rescheduling your brigade, either to an in-person brigade at a later date or switching to a virtual brigade program (TeleBrigade). In the case that your chapter had previously been issued flight tickets, your Travel Team Member will work with you to request a flight credit or flight voucher from the airline, which can be applied towards purchasing a flight for a future brigade. Flight credits and vouchers are subject to policies and regulations as established by the airline.

Will there be additional fundraising required for brigades?

Yes. At this time, Global Brigades is asking all chapters to contribute to a group donation goal that will cover the costs of the COVID-19 trip interruption insurance, mandatory COVID-19 testing that will be required prior to your departure home at the end of your brigade, and PPE for volunteers, staff, and community members.  Your Program Associate will add the group donation amount to your chapter’s MyBrigades page.

How we are adapting our programs

  • Honduras
  • Panama
  • Ghana
  • Nicaragua
  • Guatemala
  • Greece

HCP Access

Coordinated through our Community Health Worker network, participating community partners will have monthly access to primary care doctors and affordable medications. Doctors will leverage our pharmacy in Tegucigalpa and bulk deals for medications to buy medicine from us and “sell” the medicine during patient consultations in the community.  In the first clinics we have been implemented to date, the sale of medicine during each community visit was able to cover the expenses of the doctor and support to cover some of GB Honduras' operational costs. The cost of medicine to the community members was still half of the retail amount and they avoided having to pay any transportation costs to access it (which can sometimes exceed the cost of medications themselves). In addition to providing basic supplies of over-the-counter and commonly prescribed medications for acutely sick patients, the program is critical to provide follow-up for chronic patients to receive their refills.  We are also implementing a discounted fee-for-service program for vision and dental care.  

Microfinance

Direct lending to Community Banks is a key opportunity for GB to continue to increase access to basic financial services and strengthen local economies while creating new revenue streams for the organization.  We will continue to support communities in Honduras through the establishment, training, and follow-up of Community Banks, while also significantly increasing our loan capital for these banks, shifting away from the more traditional ‘donation’ model.  We will focus on working with communities to develop innovative financial products to continue to invest in their businesses, homes, WASH, and healthcare solutions.  The continued improvement in the performance of Community Banks in Honduras will allow us the opportunity to further leverage the capital available from Kiva and other external sources.  We are currently in the process of establishing a new subsidiary of GB, a Second Level Community Bank, designed to serve as the mechanism through which Community Banks can access and repay the capital. With the proceeds, GB can ensure a sustainable return on investment to support international operations and to continue investing in The Empowered 100 goals.

WASH

Traditionally, GB contributes roughly one-third of the construction costs of the community-wide water systems and the other two-thirds is covered from counterpart funding from partner organizations, the local municipality, and community members. In our revised methodology, we will be striving toward having our portion recovered through the community banks (cajas) in the form of a longer-term and low-interest loan. We are currently conducting financial modelings of the timing and rates of payments and how this cost can be recovered through each household’s monthly bill from the local water committee for operation, maintenance, and administration. If successful, we can begin to leverage Kiva.org or other loan programs to capitalize the construction.  Similarly, WASH and Microfinance teams will continue to develop innovative financing options aimed at increasing access to public health infrastructure, while recovering investment, to further perpetuate impact through a sustainable economic model.

Microfinance

The World Bank has named our Panama team as the most effective microfinance workers in rural Central America. We will continue to support communities in Panama through the establishment, training, and follow-up of Community Banks. Using the Merkel Funds and Kiva.org, we will also significantly increase our capital available to these banks.  and develop innovative financial products so small businesses have access to affordable loans.  We are currently in the process of establishing a new subsidiary of GB, a Second Level Community Bank, designed to serve as the mechanism through which Community Banks can access and repay the capital. With the proceeds, GB can ensure a sustainable return on investment to support international operations and to continue investing in The Empowered 100 goals.

HCP Access

Our Panamanian health team is currently exploring ways to adapt the HCP access model from Honduras to focus on dental health at first for the existing community partners. However, additional research is being done to expand our scope to primary health care in the far West of Panama in Ngäbe and other isolated communities with less access to health services and medicines.

HCP Access

Our health team has adapted the community pharmacy model in Nicaragua for our operations in Ghana. This will consist of a central pharmacy strategically located from partner communities, taking advantage of their closer geographical proximity as compared. We are also considering opening a private clinic to provide primary health and complement the services that are being conducted in the community health outposts.  We will continue to collaborate with the government’s  National Health Insurance Agency to align their efforts with our developing cost recovery solutions.

Microfinance

GB Ghana has renegotiating its relationship with its lending partner, Microfin, to take over follow-up of the MHope lending groups that we have established. We will be continuing to build capacity of our local coordinators to strengthen the MHope groups (similar to Community Banks in Central America) to ensure the continuation of strong repayment rates and the identification of new businesses to lend to.

WASH

GB Ghana will continue to work on strengthening its relationship with large international partners like Lions Club and Rotary Club, with the focus of securing funding for water infrastructure projects to meet E100 communities' goals.  In addition, the team will work with communities and local government partners to develop innovative cost recovery solutions for both toilet projects and household water connections to the Ghana Water Company’s already existing clean water network.  

Community Pharmacies

The GB Nicaragua team will continue to collaborate with the existing Community Health Workers and follow-up with Community Pharmacies to provide basic services in certain Empowered 100 communities.  The team is also pursuing a telemedicine solution that is being piloted with a local partner organization and working to adapt Honduras' Health Care Professional Access program to provide monthly primary health care services.

Microfinance

We will continue to support communities in Nicaragua through the establishment and training of new and follow-up of existing Community Banks. Using the Merkel Funds and Kiva.org, we will also significantly increase our loan capital available to these banks. As in Panama, the strength of the loan performance of Community Banks there are critical to our ability to leverage capital from Kiva and other external sources.

WASH

In Nicaragua, we will strive to complete water and public health infrastructure that has already been started. At the same time, we will be renegotiating with partner organizations to reposition the GB portion of financing from a donation to a cost recovery model.

HCP Access

Leveraging the HCP access model developed in Honduras, we will be piloting a similar program in Guatemala. Coordinated by Dra. Gladys Turcios, who was previously the one leading the initiative in Honduras before moving to Guatemala, the communities that we were planning on running brigades will have regular access to primary care doctors and affordable medications. Doctors will leverage our current medical supply and “sell” the medicine during patient consultations in the community. Similar to Honduras, the sale of medicine during each community visit is meant to cover the expenses of the doctor and provide a margin to GB. We are currently assessing the present costs of medication in community partners and overall demand from a feasibility side while navigating travel restrictions within Guatemala to access those communities.

Microfinance

Our Executive Directors in Central America are collaboratively seeking a funding opportunity with the World Bank to expand our microfinance programming in Guatemala.

Health Access

While access to the population of asylum seekers in Long Term Accommodation Sites in Greece is greatly limited due to COVID-19, our Greece team is taking this opportunity to explore the possibility of establishing our own private health center in Athens focusing on improving access to primary healthcare for vulnerable populations.  As such, the potential clinic in Athens would serve the general Greek population, allowing for a sustainable business model, while also designating times to serve under-resourced populations, pro-bono. The current plan is to identify a space that is also large enough to run primary health clinics with Medical Brigades as well in the future as a back-up strategy when conditions in the camp are not conducive for volunteers.
*Statistics provided represent impact across all countries and all communities