SIFAT’s Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak
as of April 3, 2020
April 3, 2020 Update
Thank You to our SIFAT Family
We always train mission team members to be flexible and know that schedules and plans may change at any time. This year, that lesson has become truer than we could have imagined. Since early March, groups planning to participate in campus programming have postponed or canceled events as everyone tries to self quarantine and prevent the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Some of our international mission teams have chosen to wait until 2021 to travel, while others are waiting to see if it will be safe to travel later this year. We are optimistic that at least one construction and medical team made up of members from different teams will be able to serve in both Bolivia and Ecuador this fall. Needless to say, March has been an uncertain time for our staff as our plans evolve.
Throughout this month, we have prayed for guidance as we make important decisions for the health and safety of our staff, participants and communities in which we serve. SIFAT’s work continues, even during self quarantine. Many of our staff members are working from home, while our campus staff are doing maintenance projects and preparing for when guests return to our campus. Meetings about upcoming community development trainings are being held through phone or video calls. Our graduates in countries around the world are contacting us to ask how SIFAT is doing, while they are facing the same challenges in their ministries as SIFAT is. You can visit www.sifat.org/coronavirus for updates about our response to COVID-19.
One of our greatest encouragements is your continued support. We have received emails and phone calls from our SIFAT family to check on our staff, international projects and campus programs. Unexpected donations have arrived in the mail. Our monthly donors’ gifts have not changed. While we do not know how long this pandemic will last or what the long-term effects on our economy will be, we are grateful for your faithfulness in supporting SIFAT. Thank you!
March 12, 2020 Statement
SIFAT has been following the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Department of State and local authorities to make decisions regarding the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) in Alabama and at our international project sites. We are making every effort possible to keep those participating in SIFAT’s campus programs and international projects healthy and safe, as well as our staff and the communities in which we serve abroad. SIFAT is taking a proactive approach to keep potential exposure to the virus minimal for everyone involved. We hope we do not have to make broad cancellations, but if the outbreak reaches that point, we will communicate with each group and team affected.
International Teams in Bolivia and Ecuador: In March, two of our international mission teams to Ecuador chose to err on the side of caution and postpone their trips until later this year. Currently, SIFAT staff members are reviewing U.S. government agencies’ travel guidelines regularly, communicating with our in-country directors for the most recent reports and advisements from Bolivia and Ecuador and discussing travel options with our team leaders.
Our major concern is the health and safety not only for our team members who must travel through airports and large crowds to reach their destinations, but also for the communities in which we serve. These areas may not be prepared or equipped to successfully address an outbreak of the virus. We do not want to potentially expose vulnerable villages or neighborhoods to this virus through accidental transmission from our visiting teams.
Our international team coordinator will be working with each team leader to make the best decision for that team’s trip.
Campus Programs in Alabama: Because we receive groups from throughout the Southeast, we want to ensure the safety of staff and local community, as well as our participants. At this time, we have suspended visits to our campus by international travelers until further notice.
Our normal routine of cleaning our facilities is being expanded. Our staff is taking the initiative to learn and implement the best techniques to effectively sanitize our lodging, bathrooms and cafeteria prior to groups arriving and after they depart. Additionally, daily disinfection of frequently touched objects and surfaces is being performed by our hospitality team. Frequent hand washing is being encouraged through reminders from our staff leading each group’s activities. We ask that visitors on campus follow good health hygiene recommendations from the CDC, which are being sent to group leaders prior to each group’s visit. Our campus nurse is available for consultation if someone exhibits symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.
Our campus staff is available to discuss concerns or make schedule changes for groups who wish to modify their programming.