3.26.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

As before, I hope this email finds you and your family healthy in these unprecedented times. “Hope is my source of strength” was the centering thought from my favorite podcast this week, and it fits so well with the good work that our teams are doing both in Guatemala and the US to continue to bring hope to our families.

What you should know at this time:

  • Guatemala continues to be proactive in keeping people at home, and has added a curfew from 4p.m. to 4a.m. every day, which is being reinforced with fines for those who don’t comply. There are currently 20 cases confirmed in Guatemala, and gratefully none of our families or staff have been diagnosed as of this writing.
  • By Monday of this week our social workers had spoken directly with 1,028 (62%) of our families, and plan to have connected with everyone before the end of this week. They are learning that:
    • The majority of families are staying at home, and have a good understanding of what the President is asking of them and why during this health crisis.
    • Our social workers are asking each family about their physical and emotional health, their work stability, and whether or not their children have access to their school’s educational materials.
    • The greatest concerns families have shared include understanding how they can prevent illness, inability to work during this time, and a lack of enough food for their families as a result.
  • Our clinic team began delivering needed medicine to patients last Friday, and has begun accepting telemedicine calls to assess health issues. They will refer patients to the designated health centers for respiratory or COVID19 symptoms as required by the Ministry of Health, and will help find needed transport. They will also diagnose and assist them with other health issues remotely, and our psychology team members are providing mental health support as needed.
  • We have received verbal approval from the Ministry of Health to bring medicines and food to families’ homes within curfew hours.

With hope as our source of strength, Common Hope will address these needs by providing every single family a HOPE KIT over the next few weeks. Hope Kits are Common Hope’s way of sharing we know this is a hard time, but there is hope. Each kit includes: food staples, bleach, soap, acetaminophen, and information on how to stay healthy during this time. It will also include educational materials to ensure students continue their learning while they are at home and not in school, and with your help a message of encouragement in every basket.

Please consider funding a Hope Kit for a family in need and send them a hopeful message.

All the best to you,
Shari

P.S. For those of you with students on track to graduate in Guatemala, you will be receiving your invitation to join us in Antigua for graduation in November. We are hopeful that graduation will continue as planned, and will keep you posted if anything changes.

3.18.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

Again, we start by sharing our hopes that you and your family are safe and healthy as we navigate Covid-19 and become accustomed to social distancing in our every day lives.

Since last week when I messaged you, leadership in both Guatemala and the US have been responding to the continuous movement around COVID19 virus and efforts to combat its spread. As an organization, health and safety of our families, volunteers, visitors, donors and staff continues to be our foremost concern.

What you should know at this time:

  • Since my last communication, there are now 7 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Guatemala. Still, we are grateful to report that there are no confirmed cases among Common Hope families, staff, and/or visitors to date.
  • Progression of the virus continues to evolve rapidly, and we are grateful for the strong preventive approach that the Guatemalan President is implementing for the people of Guatemala. Borders have been closed to all visitors, including the US and Canada. Everyone has been encouraged to stay home, all schools and educational programs are closed, public organizations and businesses with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies, and take-out restaurants are closed, and public transportation has been shut down. As a result, our regular programming has been suspended through the end of March. The President plans to revisit this decision in 7 days.
  • All of our visitors to Guatemala have returned home safely, and we are rescheduling teams whose trips had to be postponed due to travel restrictions.

Like so many, our families are worried and concerned. And, we are working tirelessly to determine how best to continue to provide HOPE and OPPORTUNITY during this time.

  • Health Care All respiratory and Covid-19 cases are required to go to the government hospitals, so we are creating new ways to deliver health information and services. We will begin tele-medicine with families to assess their health issues and either refer according to Ministry of Health requirements or serve those with chronic health conditions and unique cases as allowed. We are establishing dedicated telephone access for the clinic to support this, and we have also assigned three clinical therapist staff to attend to the emotional and mental health of our families.
  • Social Work Our social work program has never been more important. Right now the social work team is fully deployed and charged with contacting every family both to check-in and also to provide education on how to avoid spreading the virus. Ensuring these staff keep themselves and our families safe is an incredible challenge. We are purchasing mobile phones, calling minutes for existing phones, and setting up hot spots to access the internet since they will be unable to meet face-to-face.
  • Systems We are also busy ensuring that other staff can work remotely whenever possible, adding technical capability to do so. Unlike the US, most staff and families do not have internet access in their homes, and many do not have mobile phones with data plans for viewing email and messaging. Our leadership in Guatemala is busy ensuring that staff who need access and communications have it available to work remotely where possible to limit travel to/from our project sites.
  • Sponsor/Donor Relations Teams in the US and in Guatemala are defining new ways to communicate with sponsors/donors. While we cannot carry letters to Guatemala right now, we can receive electronic letters via our website and can translate those letters to be delivered to families as soon as we are able. Please write a letter to your sponsored student via our website!
  • Visitors and Events We are working with our upcoming teams and event planning to modify our schedules as necessary. For those of you in the Midwest, we have rescheduled our Noche de Colores event from May 14th to October 14th in St. Paul, and hope that you are able to join us at that time.

In addition to the immediate areas we’re addressing in Guatemala, our Education support teams are also planning for how we could help keep students on track with their studies while school and educational programs are closed to group activities. We’re proactively considering where we will have savings during this closure in order to reallocate resources in anticipation of hardships for our families and for our donors as a result of this global crisis.

Our US Office is closed to visitors at this time with most of our staff working remotely. We are available via phone and email if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you again for your commitment to the families we serve, in particular as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Best regards,
Shari

3.12.2020 UPDATE

Dear Friends of Common Hope,

We hope that this email finds you and your family healthy and unaffected by the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As I’m sure you are aware, it has been a growing global concern over the past few weeks, and information and progression of the virus is evolving rapidly. Over the last few weeks we have heard from many of our amazing Common Hope family members – sponsors, vision team members, volunteers – inquiring on our families, students and travelers. Common Hope has been monitoring the situation closely and our leadership in both Guatemala and the US have been preparing for how we will respond to the COVID19 virus as it continues to spread.

As an organization, health and safety of our families, volunteers, visitors, donors and staff is our foremost concern. Common Hope has developed a multi-phase plan to manage our operations as risk levels progress in the US, Guatemala and for visitor travel.

What you should know at this time:

  • Guatemala has no confirmed cases in Guatemala, or among Common Hope families, staff, and/or visitors
  • While this is the case, the Guatemalan government yesterday mandated a 7 day quarantine for anyone arriving from Europe, and it is possible that soon the same could be done for visitors arriving from US states that have confirmed cases.
  • As a result, Common Hope is suspending visitor travel through Semana Santa/Easter weekend of April 13th.
  • We have been in communication with our pending travelers and will continue to do so, with the plan to reschedule their trips at a later time.
  • As of today, Common Hope is continuing normal program operations for our students and families AND a heightened safety, cleaning, and hygiene protocol according to CDC recommendations. This is continuously being reviewed, and we will continue to adapt as the virus progresses.
  • For those of you who have written to your sponsored students, we will translate and transport those letters as quickly as possible given travel constraints. If you want to write electronically via the website, those communications will continue to be delivered until further notice.

The US State Department raised the global travel advisory to Level 3: reconsider travel. Read it here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/travel-advisory-alert-global-level-3-health-advisory-issue.html.

We continue to monitor advisories here and in Guatemala and any restriction impacting travel to/from Guatemala will be communicated directly to those impacted.

Our hearts are with those families affected around the world. Thank you for your understanding as we continue to keep everyone’s safety and health at the forefront of our work.

Best regards,
Shari