SCI and COVID-19
On 11th March 2020, the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. This global situation had a direct effect on SCI’s work as an international peace organisation. Since the beginning, SCI has been working on understanding and reacting to the health emergency created by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as the safety and wellbeing of our volunteers and local communities is our priority and our branches’ and partners’ work has been affected to varying degrees.
Each SCI branch and organisation closely follows the current measures in their country and informs participants about any COVID-19-related requirements and what precautions will be put in place to create a safe environment.
Some activities allow travel and can take place in person, some others will be fully online, and some will be a combination of online and offline activities. During these years, our organisations developed different creative methodologies to make sure that our activities are safe, engaging and useful.
General advice for travelling to our projects
How did SCI deal with the pandemic in the beginning?
After consultations with members, SCI made the temporary decision to suspend all placements between 21st March 2020 and 7th May 2020. On 8th May 2020 placements opened again with new online or local opportunities, as well as international workcamps that follow stricter safety measures. We have worked hard to ensure that our commitment to a more peaceful world did not stop when was most needed, and that our volunteers and local communities were safe in contributing to this vision.
Below you can read our statements on the initial situation, and some branches’ statements as well.
Coronavirus: here we are using the widespread term Coronavirus to indicate what the WHO informally calls COVID-19 virus, whose scientific name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
COVID-19: the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the development of the disease called coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
7th May 2020
Dear friends of SCI,
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the measures taken to address it, have rapidly changed the lives of people from all over the world, with an impact on health and health systems, human rights, the economy, mobility, personal relations and social interactions. Although most countries in the world have been affected, the responses by governments and individuals, as well as the consequences on communities, vary considerably.
SCI works for peace through organizing volunteering projects and activities, both national and international, focused on intercultural dialogue and understanding. A core part of our work is bringing people together to create this dialogue. SCI’s work has therefore been heavily impacted and we have been working on adapting our activities to this new and fast-changing situation. We did this by keeping a close look at the developments in different countries, constantly discussing plans and alternative ideas within the Movement, communicating with volunteers, partners and other IVS networks and pausing workcamp placements in order to have time to better understand the situation and respond appropriately.
Our goal is to support the actions taken by communities and nations to address the COVID-19 virus and protect those vulnerable amongst us, as well as keep working on our vision for peace.
We firmly believe that our work for a world where all people live together with mutual respect cannot stop now, in a moment where solidarity is crucial for the wellbeing of communities and the most vulnerable among them. It is important that we keep addressing socially important issues, offering alternatives to the dominant model, stimulating creativity for a better future, and bringing people together to create international dialogue and understanding.
That is why, after careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Movement, we have decided to re-open workcamp placements, starting on 8th May 2020, employing measures that ensure the principle of “do no harm”. Ensuring the health and safety of the participants and the communities we are working with is our priority.
Given the significant differences between countries in terms of measures taken and health situation, each SCI Branch will adapt its work accordingly, deciding when and how to organise workcamps, always keeping an open and transparent communication with everyone involved.
Additionally, we will offer volunteers alternative workcamps and activities that are safe to join given the circumstances, starting from local workcamps, virtual workcamps, or a combination of the two.
You will find the opportunities available to you on our workcamps search engine and more information on different measures SCI has taken and will take will be explained to you there. Please contact your local organisation to have more information on the details of participation.
We hope that the activities that we offer will give you hope and motivation in this challenging moment for us all, and will make you feel closer to the worldwide community of volunteers and activists that are working towards peace. Take this moment as an opportunity to be creative, to imagine a different world, to redefine systems that are now showing all their flaws and build more resilient, inclusive and fair communities. At the same time, we hope you take care of yourselves, your loved ones and show solidarity with your communities as we are in this together.
Finally, we would like to express our continuous gratitude to those who are tirelessly working on the forefront and final defense during these unprecedented times, as the response to the crisis is not over yet and we all need to keep doing our best to keep the situation under control.
We will continue to evaluate the changing situation and keep sharing updates with you.
As always stay safe, kind and healthy.
With continuous hope for the future,
20th March 2020
Already the world looks a lot different since SCI’s statement of 16th March 2020 and this is a testament to the speed nations and societies have had to react in order to decrease as much as possible the potential catastrophic consequences this pandemic could have. The COVID-19 pandemic does not only have huge health implications, burdening our medical systems to breaking point, but will also have an unpredictable negative effect on the economy.
SCI’s purpose is to promote a culture of peace through intercultural dialogue and understanding. Our vision of living in a culture of peace means a world where all people live together in mutual respect and without resorting to violence, where there is social justice and sustainable development, and where, most of all, people are at the heart of what we do. In order to achieve this, SCI has been organising international volunteering projects for the past 100 years, meeting and working with great people over the years.
This is why the discussion on our response to COVID-19 was not taken lightly. On the one hand, it was a difficult discussion given the huge impact that the situation is having and will have on our projects and goals. On the other hand, our values give us a clear direction. In this moment, solidarity means supporting the measures suggested by experts, and that many countries put in place, asking citizens to stay indoors and practice social distancing in an effort to protect those most vulnerable amongst us. Limiting the spread of COVID-19 and flattening the curve to give our systems and societies a chance to cope is and should be a priority for everyone. We also believe that a core part of peace is inclusion, ensuring that no one is left behind, especially those most vulnerable.
As a result of this belief and the uncertainty of what will happen in the future, we have decided to suspend placement to our workcamps, effective from 12pm CET on 21st March until 30th April 2020. We have decided that promoting international travel during this pandemic with no clear understanding of the effects on both the volunteers and local communities is not an acceptable risk and we need to see how the situation develops in order to take any further actions.
This does not mean that our mission stops or that we are not still working on our vision of a culture of peace. SCI is working hard to find ways to organise our activities, communicating with local partners and communities to understand needs and opportunities for collaboration. Innovation and responding to these needs will be at the forefront of our work, better understanding what we can do online, how we can stimulate this intercultural understanding from a distance and working hard to ensure our future projects are safe.
We know that everyone has been hit hard with this pandemic and the future is unclear. We have also seen people come together in acts of kindness and compassion that will be crucial in the weeks to come. We applaud all those who are working tirelessly to navigate us through the coming times and offer full support to everyone currently struggling to find their feet.
SCI stays fully committed to our vision of a world living in a culture of peace. Now is the moment for us to work together and experiment with new methods to make this a reality. We will continue to discuss measures and plan alternative activities, so please check here for regular updates. Now more than ever we will need the spark and energy volunteering can bring.
As always stay safe, kind and healthy.
16th March 2020
Dear friends of SCI,
The recently classified pandemic COVID-19 has swept the world in a manner previously unseen in this generation. In the last week, measures have been taken by countries in order to slow the spread of this virus so that nations can have the opportunity to react. These measures are not only focused on a societal level, but also call on individuals to do their part to slow the rate of infection, including travel recommendations, social distancing and event cancellations.
SCI works for peace through organizing volunteering projects and activities, both national and international, focused on intercultural dialogue and understanding. A core part of our work is bringing people together to create this dialogue. These new national measures therefore directly impact our work and activities, however we fully support the actions taken by communities and nations to address the COVID-19 virus and protect those vulnerable amongst us. Working together to ensure as many people stay healthy and safe is our top priority at the moment. SCI is working on regulations for our work and activities that will be shared in the coming days to ensure that we are contributing to these measures.
However, we would like to emphasize the need to stay focused on one of the core values of SCI: solidarity. There are groups in the community who are not able to move as easily during these times, either because they are more vulnerable, they have mobility limitations, or they may indeed be sick without a support structure. During times of self-isolation or social distancing, loneliness will also be an issue we will have to consider, especially for those who are less comfortable with technology or who don’t have a large social group.
We implore those who are at a lower risk to show solidarity to those people who are not able to be as mobile in a time of limited social opportunities. This can be done through offering to support with groceries, medicines, other necessary shopping or further support for those who are unable to leave their homes, always taking the necessary preventive precautions in order to make sure that we are not causing harm in the process. We ask people who maybe have a few spare moments to connect with other people online, through the phone, through letters, to make sure that loneliness does not become prevalent during this time.
Mostly, we would like to call on everyone to stay kind to one another. This situation will be a true test for not only our organisations and organisations like ours, but also our current society as a whole. Despite the challenges and fears that we are sure people are feeling, we hope that our core values will stay strong.
SCI is discussing and considering how we can change and continue our activities considering the current measures in place. There is an opportunity for innovation and creativity during these times that we intend to take and explore. We will continuously share updates as we have them and promise to keep a continuous flow of information. We will also need to review our current activities, with the possibility of cancelling our planned volunteering, including workcamps, and the need to refrain from travel; more information on SCI’s recommendations and decisions will be shared in the coming days.
Finally, we would like to show our profound appreciation for those working on forefront during this emergency and for those who are working to keep society functioning during these trying times. Thank you very much for your work and efforts. We, as individuals and civil society, will do our part and offer as much support as we are able.
The situation in each country is continuously changing and we will adapt accordingly, giving timely information where we are able. Official and accurate information is crucial in this situation, as many medically false claims are circulating online. We will do our best to collect information from trusted sources, starting from the WHO.
Let’s stay united in these trying times and support where we can.
As always stay safe, stay healthy and stay kind.
With hope for the future,
The measures to contain the COVID-19 virus with border closures and travel restrictions or curfews directly and massively affect international volunteering.
We at the German SCI branch are in constant close contact with our partner organisations to keep ourselves informed about requirements and recommendations in our respective partner countries, and we comply with the requirements of the health authorities.
Our office has adapted its working methods to limit personal contacts as far as possible. We still have contact persons in the office to answer questions. However, several employees work from home and can initially only be reached by email. Therefore, we ask you to address your questions preferably to firstname.lastname@example.org or directly by mail to one of our colleagues. You can find their email addresses on our Team Page.
We are currently working hard to make it possible for long-term volunteers who are abroad to return home. We are in close contact with our partners, with transport companies and governmental agencies to organize flights and to accommodate volunteers in governmental return operations. Safety has the highest priority.
Foreign long-term volunteers in Germany can, if they wish, continue their service in Germany. They are also in close contact with us.
Our staff will inform you directly about projects, seminars or other events that are cancelled or have to be postponed in the next few weeks.
We are currently still planning the work camps for the summer and the medium and long-term volunteer services in the hope that the situation will change for the better.
Of course, we are constantly considering current developments and recommendations from the authorities and include them in our planning. If you are registered for a project, a seminar or a work camp, we ask you not to book any trips or make any expenses in connection with our program until the situation has eased considerably and you are sure you are ready to start your trip.
In these special times, our solidarity is especially needed.
Be mindful, respect others and stay healthy!
SCI German Branch e.V.