How Cuso International is responding to COVID-19

Your COVID-19 Questions

As countries around the world combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Cuso International is working to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, partners, and beneficiaries. This pandemic is especially devastating to our most vulnerable communities – most of whom are without the basic health care and day-to-day resources you and I have available. In light of the increased risk of countries imposing travelling restrictions, Cuso International made the decision to accelerate the return of all volunteers in March of 2020. Our teams across the globe are working tirelessly to support measures to reduce the risk of proliferation of COVID-19. We currently have a small number of in-country volunteers who have recently begun new placements in support of the work of our partners. Staff and volunteers are working from home, and we are doing all we can to ensure these new working arrangements have minimal impact on our operations. As situations improve in our countries, allowing staff and volunteers to work on site, we will ensure proper measures are in place to uphold our duty of care.

In light of the current context, to be able to ensure continuity of our programs and to provide support to our partners, Cuso International has implemented certain adaptations. These include, targeting recruitment to volunteers who are in-country and those who can provide remote support from Canada. We are also designing partnership and programming tools to be self administered or supported remotely. In some countries we have supported adjustments by partners in their activities, for example delivering training to smaller groups or moving training online.

Cuso International has launched two rapid response projects in order to address the challenges women and girls face during the pandemic:

Helping Rural communities in Cameroon respond to COVID-19 - This rapid response project in Cameroon focuses on women who traditionally are less exposed to information and who, because of their mobility outside their households in search of subsistence, are at high risk of contracting COVID-19. Cuso International is working with women's empowerment centres, health workers, radio stations and schools to minimize risk and increase community awareness.

Women’s Voice in Leadership (WVL) - Through our WVL program in Peru, we are providing access to emergency funds in situations that threaten women’s rights. Since the earliest days of COVID-19, these funds have assisted the four WVL women-led partner organizations to respond to COVID-19 related emergencies in their communities. It has given them access to food supplies and sanitation supplies, Personal Protection Equipment, helped them communicate gender violence and COVID-19 prevention messages through radio spots in Spanish and Quechua, and provided legal support and psychosocial support to victims of GBV and those within the LGBTQ community.

Cuso International continues to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing impacts in Canada and around the world. Given the present circumstances, we have made the decision to delay the full deployment of volunteers from Canada, with the exception of a limited number of volunteers who will begin their placements in fall/winter of 2021. This deployment strategy is proceeding after a careful risk assessment. It includes the following three countries: Benin, Cameroon and Colombia where we are confident that we will be able to uphold our duty of care and our commitment to volunteer and community safety. Furthermore, the volunteers selected for this limited deployment are repeat volunteers. As the situation continues to evolve, the duty of care for our volunteers remains our greatest consideration. We will resume wider deployment when we can ensure our standard of care and minimize any potential risks for our volunteers, as well as for all staff, partners and the communities we serve. In the meantime, please check our Volunteer Placements for e-volunteer opportunities that align with your skill set. E-volunteering is a great way to contribute to partners and projects remotely and can help build the foundation for an international placement once it is deemed safe to travel.

With the COVID-19 crisis reaching new corners of the world each day, we’re working tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our Cuso International community. This pandemic is especially devastating to women and girls around the world – most of whom are without basic health care. Join us, as we continue working to reduce poverty and inequality. Donate today


Helping in the Age of COVID-19

Creativity and collaboration are both themes that reflect Cuso International’s approach during the COVID-19 crisis, to meet the evolving needs of vulnerable communities around the world.

“COVID-19 has presented challenges of a type and scale we’ve never before seen,” says Glenn Mifflin, CEO of Cuso International. “The creative ways in which Cuso International has adapted are vivid examples of how we prioritize our motto of ‘people helping people’—wherever and whenever the need arises.”

Q&A: with David Forest, Head of Programs, Africa

David Forest, Cuso International’s Head of Programs-Africa, moved from Ottawa to Benin in September 2019 with his partner and their two young children to assume his new role.

The family was forced to return early as the coronavirus began to rapidly spread through Europe and North America, and the Canadian government urged Canadians to come home. David sat down by phone for a Q&A about how the coronavirus has impacted his work.

Compassion in the time of COVID-19

Everyone has been touched by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in one way or another. But there are some groups for whom the current pandemic is being felt in more acute ways. Women as a whole are disproportionately affected whenever any disaster strikes, and this is no exception. Read more from Sarah Pentlow, Cuso International Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Consultant.

Karen Pavon is Cuso International’s Country Representative, International Programs Honduras. She joins us from Tegucigalpa sharing an update on the challenges vulnerable communities are experiencing in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.