A parent asked this past weekend about the March student trip to Guatemala, and how the current situation with coronavirus would affect it. Excellent question. Below is my response:
Thanks for asking. Teresa and I have been watching coronavirus shortly after it appeared for this very reason. We have several trips the first four months of this year. India has already returned. I lead the next one to Panama, then Connie leads one to England, followed by Guatemala and Kenya. I also have two personal trips to Seattle in that time period.
With each trip I follow a few guidelines:
- Any person can pull out of a trip if they or their parents are uncomfortable with the risk factors. That happened two years ago for a Guatemala trip when a volcano was erupting. One person pulled out last minute. We couldn’t refund any money but supported their decision.
- We trust our hosts on any factors in country that would prevent us from sending a team. Elections in Kenya were a factor a couple years ago and we cancelled the trip (or didn’t even try, I forget which it was). Our hosts gave us that advice. For the coronavirus, any trip mentioned above could be impacted by it and we will defer to our hosts on whether or not to come.
- We will also take into account travel warnings from the state department, recommendations from the WHO and CDC. If their recommendations were fairly strong to not travel to a country our teams are headed for we would draw in the trip leaders and church elders to discuss and reach a decision on what to do. Even if we decided we would still go ahead there could be lots of people conclude it’s not worth the risk and pull out, leaving an empty team. I doubt we would be that far apart but as with all trips, if not enough people go then we cancel a trip.
We do our best to be vigilant for the people we send out each year, knowing that risk needs to be assessed regularly. We appreciate your prayers as we continue to monitor this situation, and I encourage you to pray for the people and places that are reeling from the spread of coronavirus.
Til next week,