March 2020 – SchoolBOX Update on COVID-19
The SchoolBOX team has been constantly monitoring daily reports and updates pertaining to COVID-19, as we work with a myriad of volunteers, employees and stakeholders around the world. Through information from the Centre for Disease Control, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Ottawa Public Health, we are gathering relevant and factual information on a continuous basis.
We are an organization dedicated to helping kids get a basic education, but our greatest priority is the health and safety of our international volunteers, staff and stakeholders.
Currently, Ottawa & Toronto (where the bulk of our international volunteers and staff call home) and Nicaragua are low risk for COVID-19 contraction. There are currently 41 confirmed cases of the virus in Ontario (one in Ottawa), and Nicaragua has no confirmed cases (March 11, 2020)
There is always a risk when travelling internationally, as airports and airplanes can pose a risk. SchoolBOX does not have any plans to cancel their international volunteer trips at present, as the majority of the volunteer experience occurs outside of major centres in Nicaragua, where risk remains very low. Should the current risk level change in such a way that we would consider modifications to our international volunteer program, we will advise all our volunteers so that they have the most accurate and up to date information available. We continue to advise travelers to buy sufficient cancellation insurance in case the volunteer experience is cancelled. If a volunteer trip is postponed or cancelled, we will adhere to SchoolBOX Volunteer Group Cancellation Policy (attached), and refund all Volunteer Program Fees and provide the volunteer with a letter to send to their travel insurance provider to claim back their flight expenses.
Ottawa Public Health has created an effective action plan if the spread of the virus accelerates. We continue to be in close contact with them and will heed their advice and recommendations. We have taken these suggestions on board in conjunction with recommendations from the Centre for Disease Control to help our staff and international volunteers prevent the spread of any infectious illness while on the job site and travelling.
As an organization, we are taking this very seriously and continue to reassess the situation on an ongoing basis. We have implemented the following:
- Staff and personnel in Canada and Nicaragua will work at home whenever possible. Staff on the worksite in Nicaragua are of very low risk and will continue their duties.
- Hold regular team meetings as needed with staff and board to inform them of the latest updates and any organizational decisions
- Hold regular meetings with volunteers who will be travelling to Nicaragua to inform them of the latest updates and risks involved with travel
- Constant contact with staff while volunteers are on the ground in Nicaragua
- Providing team and volunteers with the attached handbook for recommendations on how to prevent infectious disease, job site disease prevention, and reducing risks while travelling (Appendix A)
We will continue to update our SchoolBOX family on the COVID-19 situation and our decisions regarding the risk.