BY ISN STAFF | March 19, 2020
International and domestic volunteer programs like the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest (JVCNW) are facing unique challenges due to geographic diversity and direct service roles that, for many, mean being in contact with multiple people through the workday and adapting during the spread of COVID-19.
JVC has arranged for all international program volunteers to be brought home. The exception to this is two volunteer communities in Peru where a national travel ban and a 15-day quarantine period have been imposed. JVC is maintaining close contact with these two communities and has strong support from the local Jesuits in the area.“The decision to bring home the international program volunteers was met with great disappointment”, said Tom Chabolla, president of JVC. “Understandably, many of the volunteers are reluctant to leave their agencies and the people they serve. They are concerned about when and if they will be able to return to complete their service. Our intention and hope are that they will be able to return but these decisions will hinge on how the virus spreads or is contained in those locations.”
Domestic JVs including volunteers with JVC NW are following the safety protocols at each of their service sites with the knowledge that remote service is likely. JVC NW has already begun having volunteers in the states of Oregon and Washington transition to remote service only.
“As the COVID-19 virus spreads, it is increasingly likely that Jesuit Volunteers (JVs) will need to continue service remotely,” said Ben Carver, AmeriCorps Program Manager at Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. “Many JVs serve in an outward-facing capacity and return home to a community of other JVs in similar service at a range of locations. Therefore, there is an increased risk of transmitting COVID-19 within JV communities and then to the people they serve.”JVCNW is a member of the AmeriCorps program which requires pre-approval for any remote service. They are currently working with Americorps to determine whether JVs will be able to continue their service activities remotely or will pursue training hours.
Increased precautions and education of volunteers surrounding the virus are also taking place. Both organizations are sharing information on basic preventative measures to minimize the risk of contracting the virus as well as protocols for social distancing, self-isolation, and quarantine. JVC NW has slightly increased each community’s financial support to cover additional cleaning materials and supplies.
JVC has canceled all domestic program silent retreats scheduled for March-May and organization staff has begun working remotely.
Both organizations remain committed to providing information and uninterrupted support to volunteers throughout the pandemic.
UPDATE, March 20, 2020: On March 18, 2020 all JVC NW volunteers, in all five states, were asked to refrain from their service and stay home through March 27, 2020 at the earliest. All in upcoming in-person retreats are being postponed/re-imagined.
“While many of our JV/AmeriCorps members can reasonably anticipate mild symptoms and an eventual recovery if they contract the virus, the larger concern is how our volunteers may contribute to spreading the virus to those at their service sites, their own living communities, and the populations of their community mates’ service placements, whose health profiles may put them at higher risk for complications and critical care needs,” said Greg Carpinello, executive director of JVC Northwest. “In short, we have responsibilities that include both the health of JV/AmeriCorps members as well as the public health within our locales.”
The organization is also calling on members of their community to “step back from fear, and to reflect on how language around the virus parallels and foments acts of racism, xenophobia, and ageism.”
“As we encounter deep-rooted hurtful narratives, we are called to interrupt and change those narratives,” said Carpinello.”Please join us in that effort to shape public discourse in our small parts of the world regarding the global pandemic.”