A Coronavirus Update from Habitat for Humanity Canada – affects Global Village Trips (Mar 2 – May 9 and possibly later)
Date: February 27, 2020
Based on the latest information from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Habitat for Humanity International is suspending all Global Village volunteer builds scheduled to begin March 2 through at least May 9. We will continue to monitor the situation and Habitat International may extend cancellations after May 9.
This decision came to us from Habitat International, who have been closely monitoring the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the precautions governments, health organizations, businesses and other international non-governmental organizations continue to take to limit its spread and impact in a growing number of countries.
Our priority is always the health and safety of our staff, volunteers, partners and the people we serve. Habitat is taking a proactive approach to minimize potential exposure to the virus. In this matter, our overriding concern is for our volunteers and the people in the communities in which we serve. Many of our Global Village builds take place in communities that may not be prepared to address an outbreak of the virus. We must take caution to not potentially expose these vulnerable communities to the virus through accidental transmission from our volunteer or staff teams.
The rapidly developing nature of the outbreak, coupled with the complexity of our Global Village program, compelled Habitat International to make this a global action. While some of the countries affected by this decision have few or no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, it is the volunteer and staff travel from and through multiple cities around the world that increases the risk of transmission. The wide and growing geographic spread of the outbreak makes it impossible to predict which countries may be affected next. Proactive cancellations allow us to minimize risk by staying ahead of the outbreak.
We understand that changes to Global Village builds can be disappointing, and know some may disagree with Habitat International’s decision. We respect those views. However, Habitat for Humanity’s concern for the safety and security for all those working and volunteering for Habitat—including volunteers, local staff and beneficiaries—call for an abundance of caution.
Volunteers scheduled on Global Village builds slated to begin between now and May 9 should review the following and take action as appropriate:
- Volunteers should contact their airlines to cancel their travel arrangements as soon as possible. Many airlines are offering travel changes and cancellation waivers given the coronavirus outbreak. We have sent you a letter of support to the airline noting the cause of the cancellation.
- Should volunteers choose to continue with their travel, it will not be covered by any Habitat Insurance or partner arrangements.
- Global Village volunteers are encouraged to consider the financial burden these cancellations create for not only yourselves, but also for Habitat in the host countries. Volunteers have the option of:
a) receiving a refund of their Global Village build donation;
b) applying it toward a future Habitat Canada Global Village build within two years of the departure date of the original build (check back on www.habitat.ca/globalvillage for builds later in the year);
c) designating the donation to be used as originally intended, benefiting Habitat’s work in the host country.
Our Global Village registration department will contact you and provide you with the appropriate modification form.
- For builds beyond May 9, we will continue to monitor and extend cancellations if required.
- Due to the potential for further cancellations we recommend not booking your flights until you receive confirmation from Habitat Canada.
- If a volunteer has a question or needs assistance, they can contact Habitat for Humanity Canada’s Global Village customer service at firstname.lastname@example.org. We ask for your patience as we work through these cancellations.
Habitat International made this decision in consultation with colleagues in all regions of our global programs, evaluating all potential impacts as well as the risks of inaction. This decision protects the short-term health and safety of our people as well as the long-term reputation of our organization as one that prioritizes safety and care for the people we serve.
The World Health Organization is providing regular updates to its guidance about preventing the spread of COVID-19. Visit the WHO’s coronavirus webpage for guidance on hygiene and prevention or visit Health Canada’s website.
We look forward to resuming our Global Village builds as soon as we are safely able. Thank you for your continued dedication to Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Rob Voisin SVP, Operations
Habitat for Humanity Canada 477 Mount Pleasant Road Suite 403, Toronto, ON, M4S 2L9
(800)667-5137 • habitat.ca