In mid-March, we swiftly suspended our global operations as there were many unknowns regarding the way COVID-19 spread, what precautions to take, what (if any) treatments would be effective, and how lethal the disease was.
Over the ensuing months, as public-health experts came to better understand the effects of COVID-19, it also became clear to us that we could not reduce the risk of contracting the virus to zero as long as the world grapples with this pandemic. We recognized that to stay true to our mission, we had to adapt and keep moving. After suspending operations for six months, we made the careful decision to adapt our volunteer model and start working to help communities again. We realized we could not continue to stand still as the world continued to suffer from devastating natural disasters.
In September, we launched DM12, an initiative to mobilize small-to-medium-sized cohorts of participants to commit to a 12-week period of service. This initiative is designed to make it safer for volunteers to work with us during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to many safety measures we have implemented, we support, train and cover the expenses of participants (read more here).
We continue to learn from our programs and partners, making sure we do better with the opening and managing of each new relief program. As I write today, we have had cases of confirmed COVID-19 in two program locations (California and Florida). Both were quickly addressed to ensure the virus would not spread beyond the initial outbreak. We are working with local health authorities to ensure that all proper protocols are followed, including contact tracing and mandatory 14-day quarantine periods.
Natural disasters leave communities and people in distress for years, not weeks or months. We will do everything in our power to keep getting smarter and more effective during this dual crisis, leaving no community we’ve committed to behind. With the pandemic continuing for the foreseeable future, we will not retreat from our mission of assisting communities on the long road to recovery. At the end of this week, we will post new DM12 volunteer opportunities for programs in Mexico, The Bahamas and the US. Although we will remain vigilant and mindful of the situation in each location, we fully intend to continue to leverage the power and passion of our staff and volunteers.
In this challenging time, I want to extend my deepest gratitude to our extraordinary staff and volunteers, as well as to our donors and supporters, who are working together to support communities around the world.
We will continue to keep you informed of how we are working to meet our commitments, and we thank you for your trust and confidence.
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