Every two weeks, I send this email to reflect on challenges and victories in our mission together.  Today I thought it would be helpful to simply send updates on how each nation is doing in our shared goal of defeating the Coronavirus.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia, like most African countries right now, has both less reported cases but more concerns about what the pandemic can mean in their already stretched healthcare systems.  The citizens of Ethiopia take great pride in the fact that an Ethiopian, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is leading the global effort to halt this disease as the leader of the World Health Organization.  Additionally, informal networks of students and young professionals are banding together to raise and contribute money to ensure that trucks of water are being delivered to needed communities like Kore, the community in which we work, where water has been unavailable for long periods of time.  These same youth groups are also voluntarily bringing buckets of water and soap to street corners around the city so that passersby can wash their hands as they walk. Returning from a trip to a United Nations meeting in New York City, Selam Terefe, our leader in Ethiopia,  was able to bring a couple of hundred needed face masks to share with the local health clinic.  She said that the cost of simple supplies, like fruit and cooking oils, is “increasing like crazy.”

Guatemala

Guatemala is taking the most proactive measures in Central America, according to this article in The Los Angeles Times.  It closed its borders two days ago, which includes blocking flights of deported citizens being returned to Guatemala from the U.S.  All schools are closed in Guatemala, as is the Ave Maria Center, which our scholars usually attend after school each day. Two weeks ago International Samaritan began a renovation of the student bathrooms at the Coll School to improve health and sanitation for our students, and our goal is to complete the project before students return.  Angelica Cancinos, our scholarship director is working with our staff to distribute surgical masks and latex gloves to local doctors.  These items, and other medical supplies were left over from our medical mission that ended last week and will be put to use.  Angelica is most concerned about a lack of food, because many will not have an income to purchase food. She estimates that $100 will feed a family for a month.

Honduras

Honduras is in a state of near lockdown for at least the next week, as the government has sent all workers home, suspended all air travel and public transportation, and closed all schools.  Tegucigalpa is under martial law, according one of our team members, but not the rest of the country.  Our team on the ground is most concerned about getting food to families, and our scholarship students in San Pedro Sula often volunteer to organize and distribute food supplies to the families in their community.  They are working with local authorities now for safe and approved ways to continue to do this.

Jamaica

In Jamaica, the prime minister declared last week that the island is considered a disaster area because of the threat from the pandemic.  As of today, the country is on lockdown for seven days, according to our leader, Sandrina Davis.  She also said that students are being encouraged to continue learning through the use of websites, but this is all but impossible for our scholars because they do not have computers or internet access at home.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua has taken a strikingly dissimilar approach to the challenge.  President Daniel Ortega’s wife called for a public rally on Saturday in which hundreds of people came together to stand in support with victims of the Coronavirus.  With no reported cases in Nicaragua to date, schools remain open and the government seems determined for life as usual to continue in this economically-challenged country despite warnings to the contrary.

The United States

Here in the United States, we have cancelled all trips through April 30, 2020. We will make a decision regarding May trips by April 1 and all June trips by April 10.  Just before the travel restrictions began, three teams experienced powerful trips, including:

  • Our first service immersion trip to Ethiopia, made by the resurgent IntSam Club at the University of Michigan.
  • A medical mission in Guatemala driven by Ohio State University’s IntSam Club, which included a desperately needed OB-Gyn from our partnership with the St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • The Ross Business School at the University of Michigan completed their fourth trip with us, which included a case study of coffee production in Guatemala in addition to their work with our team in Escuintla.

We are looking for ways to help ensure that the people in our communities have the food and sanitation supplies they need to survive.  As those solutions and opportunities to help become clear, we will share them with you. If you have thoughts or questions, please let me know by simply replying to this email.  And please, please keep our families and communities in your prayers.

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