Helping from afar -- international humanitarian work and COVID-19

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David Barth with World Accord project partners in Honduras. Image: Victoria Fenner

There are thousands of people in Canada involved in international humanitarian work.

According to CARE Canada in a 2011 study, there were 14,000 full-time and 32,000 part-time workers working in international development in our country. And there are also thousands of volunteers who go oversees to provide health-care relief, build schools, help out in community radio stations, and assist in environmental initiatives, among other things.

That's a lot of people. Most of them are working from home right now, and many have likely lost their jobs. The exact numbers aren't known yet. And we don't know how many volunteer placements have stopped. One thing is pretty sure -- they're wondering and worrying about the people they help. It's especially difficult because they can't physically go there to see the situation first hand, and in many cases communications infrastructure is either unreliable or unavailable.

Today we're talking to two people who work in international development:

David Barth is the executive director of World Accord in Waterloo, Ontario. Barth was with a group of volunteers in Honduras when airports started to close and countries were shutting their borders to stop the spread of COVID-19. They are back home now with a lot of stories to tell about what they went through. He also talks about World Accord's partners and his hopes and fears as the pandemic spreads.

Simon Chambers is the director of communications for ACT Alliance. The ACT Alliance is a coalition of Protestant and Orthodox churches and church-related organizations engaged in humanitarian, development and advocacy work. The alliance has 135 members working in over 120 countries. Up until a few months ago, he was spending a lot of time on planes going to international meetings. Not now. He's in Toronto, still working but from home. Chambers talks about how the pandemic is shifting priorities for NGOs, and is hopefully not sidelining climate change efforts. 

Image: Victoria Fenner


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