Responding to COVID-19

In light of rapid developments with COVID-19 and in an effort to support containment of the virus, Global Brigades decided to suspend in-person brigades to all of our program countries in March 2020. As it stands, each of our program countries has been tremendously impacted by the pandemic and have various restrictions in place that directly impact our traditional brigade operations. Our national and international leadership teams have been monitoring developments surrounding the outbreak on a daily basis. In order to objectively assess the timeline for resuming in-country volunteer operations, we set a variety of factors to determine when volunteers will be able to travel abroad to participate in brigades, ensuring the safety of volunteers, staff, and partner communities.

 

Based on the most recent assessment of these criteria, we are now targeting a reopening date of April 30th, 2021. In the meantime, Global Brigades chapters are encouraged to join our new TeleBrigades programs and to continue preparing for 2021 in-person brigades.

Now more than ever, our community partners count on your continued support to ensure we can empower them to meet their health and economic goals. We want you to know that because of your past and current support, we continue to look toward our future with great hope and optimism knowing that our work with community partners will overcome these obstacles. Global Brigades has persisted through many global crises over our history and persevered by creating innovative solutions to weather unanticipated events. In addition to now offering TeleBrigades for volunteers, read more below on how our teams are adapting programs to best position our partner countries for continued impact regardless of in-person participation of volunteers.

For additional information, please feel free to review the following resources:

• Center for Disease Control COVID-19 Travel Guidance

• Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

• World Health Organization

• New York Times COVID-19 FAQ

• Government of Canada Coronavirus Information

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. If you have any additional questions please feel free to reach out to admin@globalbrigades.org

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;
  • There is a sustained drop in local ICU and hospital admissions;
  • Normal tourist activities have resumed locally and without restriction.
When in person volunteer operations resume, what additional precautions will be 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 50% capacity and observing these capacity limits for all transportation and lodging.
  • Periodic COVID testing and health screening of all brigade staff.
  • 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.
  • Requiring all participants to take a COVID test within at least 72 hours of departure and provide Global Brigades with proof of a negative test. Should a participant test positive they will be unable to participate as scheduled.
  • 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, sanitization 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, prior to departure all participants will need to obtain proof of a negative COVID test which has been administered within 72 hours of 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 centre or at a designated hotel for monitoring by the Ministry of Health for up to 14 days.

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. 

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. The policy does not cover any expenses due to evacuation, trip interruption, or trip cancellation due to COVID-19, nor does it cover expenses incurred due to mandatory quarantine. Global Brigades is currently in the process of securing coverage for volunteers for an additional fee, which would cover trip cancellation and trip interruption claims filed due to COVID-19, including costs incurred during a quarantine period.

In the meantime, all volunteers looking 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.

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.

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