Amizade’s work relies heavily on travel and in-person connection to build networks and inspire individuals, and right now, that isn’t possible. The COVID-19 outbreak has been an incredibly stressful and heartbreaking experience for us, as we know it has been for so many. However, it also brought us an opportunity to look to the core of our mission, reach out across our network, and search for innovative ways to make the world a more just and joyful place.
From this unprecedented time came a new way to share global service-learning experiences—we’re proud to introduce you to Amizade VSL: Virtual Service Learning. As we practice physical distancing, connecting with the world has become more important than ever before. We’re not trying to replace hands-on, community-based programming, but we designed this experience to be similarly affordable, accessible, intimate, engaging, and powerful. Modules are designed to tackle some of our world’s most pressing issues, including COVID-19 misinformation, climate change denial, and global solidarity.
Check out our VSL modules.
Unfortunately, given continued global health concerns, border closures, and travel disruptions, BCA+Amizade has made the decision to suspend our semester programs for the upcoming academic year. This is a difficult decision and we realize it is likely very disappointing for your students. These last few months have been filled with so much ambiguity; we hope by suspending programs now, students are able to make informed choices regarding their fall 2020 semester and find some concrete next steps. We are also hopeful that our international partners and friends are able to use this next year to recover and rebuild.
Please note that we will be refunding application fees and confirmation deposits for any students who have submitted these. Victoria Radford, our program adviser, will be reaching out to students individually over the next few days to inform students of program suspensions and coordinate confirmation deposit refunds.
The BCA+Amizade community worldwide continues to be impacted by this global pandemic and we recognize that our field and higher education more broadly will continue to feel these effects for months, if not years. At the same time, the world is not closed just because borders are. Learning won’t stop because school buildings are shut, and empathy is not dead because hugging has slowed. It’s more important than ever that we re-commit to service, learning, and exploration. We are busy working to create new opportunities for community-building, solidarity, and globally-informed education through virtual service learning. You’ll see more information about these initiatives on our website in the coming days. We remain committed to building a more just and joyful world together with you, your students and our community partners worldwide. We hope you will continue to be a part of our community by collaborating with us to offer these unique, values-based programs to your students.
Amizade’s Executive Director, Brandon Blache-Cohen, wrote a message to our students addressing the COVID-19 crisis.
I hope you are adjusting as well as you can to our new circumstances. As you know, we are living in unprecedented times, with unusual and evolving challenges. COVID-19 has dismantled our daily norms and forced the closure of nearly everything – from universities to restaurants – around the world, including many borders. I want to thank you for flexibility and humility during these challenging times. By returning home, you have shown that you both understand the gravity of the situation and are a participant in the most significant moment of human solidarity in our times. Thank you.
I recognize that you may have a lot of conflicting feelings right now. Leaving the excitement of a new community or a homestay family can be very difficult. Amizade is here to support as best as possible. Feel free to be in contact with our team with any questions or concerns as you navigate our newly virtual world.
While it may feel overwhelming that much of the world’s institutions are closed or virtual now, be clear that we believe that this is both temporary and an opportunity to be helpers. Amizade believes in a more joyful and just world, and in our 60 year history, there has never been a more clear call to action. Right now, you have the power to be a helper. Consider donating blood, getting involved in food distribution, or simply and most importantly do your part by staying at home.
The world is not closed just because borders are, learning won’t stop because school buildings are shut, and empathy is not dead because hugging has slowed. It’s more important than ever that we re-commit to service, learning, and exploration. Please stay in touch with your new friends abroad, be good to each other, and let us know how we can continue to support you.
The health and safety of Amizade’s network is the most important aspect of our movement. Unfortunately, because of the current pandemic, we have a moral responsibility to stop all travel and ensure our participants and community partners are where and with whom the need to be.
Today our dream of creating a more joyful and just world means pausing the most crucial part of our work, in-person human-to-human interaction. Be clear that we will continue to meet our mission through virtual engagement (more news coming soon), and as soon as it’s safe, we will return to the skies to help with the rebuilding process and show in-person solidarity with our friends on every corner of this beautiful planet. Here’s what that means for specific programming:
Short-term Fair Trade Learning Programs:
All Amizade customized short-term fair trade learning programs have been canceled until June (with cancellations most likely continuing beyond this). Colleges, universities and community partners with questions regarding upcoming global service-learning programs should reach out to their Amizade Site Liaison or to Rachel Helwig, Director of Health, Safety & Security for more information. We understand that you may have questions regarding postponing or canceling programs, and we will work with you to understand what is possible.
At this time, Amizade has taken the step to cancel all semester study abroad programs, along with all historic BCA summer programs. Although participants will not be able to continue their programs overseas, we are working closely with each of our host universities to facilitate virtual coursework. It will take us some time to understand what may be possible in each program location. In some locations, BCA-administered coursework will transition to virtual courses easily; in other locations, we will continue to work with the host universities to understand and support any procedures they have in place for virtual coursework. It will be very important that participants continue to monitor their email regularly as we provide more information regarding this process. Our goal is to allow participants to continue to receive credits for their terms. Resident Directors will be working closely with Amizade and host universities to facilitate this, so participants can expect to receive more information in the coming days.
We will also follow-up with each participant within the next two weeks regarding any potential refunds. While we are currently focusing on ensuring participants’ ability to complete courses and successfully depart from their program locations, we will stay in close communication as we move forward.
BCA+Amizade Summer 2020 Study Abroad Programs:
Amizade has canceled all historic BCA credit-bearing summer study abroad programs.
Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash
We recognize that you are likely waking up to a number of emails and concerning news regarding the recent press conference outlining travel policies for the European Union and the US. With these recent changes, BCA+Amizade has taken the step the cancel our programs in the European Union and the UK and to support students in returning to the US. Please note that this message was sent as an email to all impacted students, parents & guardians, and home institutions here in the US.
Please know that we do not make this decision lightly and recognize the impacts this will have our participants and the communities they have built in our program locations. I realize that this may feel frustrating, but as we have stated previously, we take the health and safety of our community members very seriously and believe this is the best course of action at this time.
We have proactively booked emergency return tickets for each participant from our program locations in the UK and Europe (or closest major airport to each program location) to the United States, departing on Sunday, March 15 or Monday, March 16 (Dublin). BCA+Amizade staff will be following up with each affected participant to share these flight details. However, participants should immediately begin to research whether they can make changes to their original flight itineraries to understand if it is possible to make changes to their existing tickets. The flights that we have booked may not be as convenient or fast as the flights that participants may be able to get through the airlines that they booked with originally. (We anticipate that it will be very difficult to communicate with the airlines by phone — we encourage participants to manage their reservations online, if possible). Participants will need to be in touch with BCA+Amizade staff by Friday afternoon to confirm if they have been able to change their existing flights or if they will need to use the flights Amizade has reserved.
Although participants will not be able to continue their programs overseas, we are working closely with each of our host universities to facilitate virtual coursework. It will take us some time to understand what may be possible in each program location. In some locations, BCA-administered coursework will transition to virtual courses easily; in other locations, we will continue to work with the host universities to understand and support any procedures they have in place for virtual coursework. It will be very important that participants continue to monitor their email regularly as we provide more information regarding this process. Our goal is to allow you to continue to receive credits for your term. Resident Directors will be working closely with Amizade and the host university to facilitate this, so participants can expect to receive more information in the coming days.
We will also follow-up with each participant within the next two weeks regarding the amount of their housing payment that we are able to refund. While we are currently focusing on ensuring participants’ ability to complete courses and successfully depart from their program locations, we will stay in close communication as we move forward.
Finally, we recognize that COVID-19 containment and mitigation measures are occurring in many communities in the US. Many home colleges and universities are also making major changes to courses and housing this term. We encourage participants to be in touch with their parents, guardians, and study abroad office at their home institutions to understand whether they would be able to return to campus this term. It will also be important to continue to follow CDC and WHO guidelines regarding handwashing and social distancing to prevent transmission of the virus as they travel back to their communities.
This is a global challenge and many in our communities worldwide are impacted by the virus or travel disruptions. While this is a time of heightened anxiety for all of us, we request your flexibility and cooperation as we work to support global health efforts. Again, we recognize that this is a challenging time and appreciate that you likely have many questions (and feelings) about this situation. Please feel free to reach out to Amizade by email — we will respond as soon as possible.
Please note that this message applies only to semester students participating in UK and European programs at this time. We will continue to share updates as the situation progresses.
As a nonprofit organization, our commitment to community-driven service and encouraging global citizenship is matched or exceeded only by one other commitment – and that is to safety.
Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Amizade recognizes first and foremost that the health and safety of its participants, site directors, and community partners are the primary concerns of any Amizade program. We understand that many of you may have questions regarding upcoming programs or health and safety broadly due to coronavirus concerns.
This is a very fluid and rapidly evolving situation. At this point, we are balancing the need for caution with the understanding that we have much more to learn about the virus and its prevalence,as well as local and global responses. We remain in direct contact with our local site directors, community partners, and insurance providers. We are constantly monitoring global events and stay abreast of all relevant travel advisories and warnings. We encourage you to review CDC and WHO websites for the most up-to-date information regarding COVID-19 and locations that may be impacted. For a list of locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/locations-confirmed-cases.html#map.
As a reminder, Amizade provides Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) international health insurance and emergency evacuation coverage to program participants, with costs for the services included as a part of the program budgeting process. In addition to providing accident and sickness insurance, the plan covers medical evacuation and repatriation as well as security evacuations if necessary.
Short-Term Global Service Learning Programs
Colleges, universities and community partners with questions regarding upcoming global service learning programs should reach out to their Amizade Site Liaison or to Rachel Helwig, Director of Health, Safety & Security for more information. We understand that you may have questions regarding postponing or cancelling programs, and we will work with you to understand what is possible.
Semester and Summer Study Abroad Programs
We are not anticipating major program changes or closures at this time, but may adapt program excursions or activities as needed to reflect country-specific guidelines. At this point, host universities in all BCA+Amizade locations are continuing coursework as usual and are following their own country-specific guidance. Students are discouraged from traveling independently outside of program locations at this time due to possibilities for travel disruptions or quarantines in other locations.
General precautions and Reminders
The World Health Organization indicates that “standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.”
Local governments are also providing health guidelines and testing opportunities, depending on program locations. Semester study abroad students should stay in close contact with their Resident Directors and follow university and government guidelines for preventing transmission and staying healthy.
Again, we recognize that the health and safety of its participants, site directors, and community partners are the primary concerns of any Amizade program. Any changes to programming or activities will be made with participant and community well-being as the first priority.
Main picture on this blog by Adolfo Felix on Unsplash.com