Atlanta, GA: While much of the world remains under some form of lockdown or stay-in-place orders, there are shoots of encouragement in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as some countries start to carefully ease restrictions in contexts where community transmission of the disease has been brought under control. The Salvation Army continues to work around the globe to meet needs caused by or amplified by COVID-19.
In New Zealand, The Salvation Army is resuming most of its pre-lockdown welfare services as the government’s restrictions are eased to Level 2. ‘We are hoping to get as many of our community ministry centres and Family Stores up and running,’ says Assistant Territorial Secretary for Mission, Captain Gerry Walker. ‘But,’ he notes, ‘this will be dependent on being able to ensure we can continue to meet the restrictions at Level 2.
‘Many of our staff and volunteers, particularly in our Family Stores, are aged over 70, and we need to make sure we can operate at a safe staffing level while not putting people at risk.’
Director of The Salvation Army’s Addiction, Social Housing and Reintegration Services, Lt. Colonel Lynette Hutson, explains services in her area of responsibility have continued throughout the lockdown, albeit in a modified way. The distancing rules brought some ‘interesting innovations’, which worked particularly well for clients addicted to gambling. This is often a hidden affliction, and Lt. Colonel Hutson says that some individuals found a socially-distanced approach to be a much less intimidating way of getting help with their addiction.
‘We are aware that doing things from a remote perspective has a lot of merit, but there is a point where people want that human contact,’ she says.
In Europe, Denmark is one of the countries leading the way towards a tentative, managed relaxation of restrictions. Here, The Salvation Army has been very active in providing care packages for families and individuals in need, both for existing service users and people finding themselves in financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The needs are continuing at present, while the economic factors of the ‘new normal’ remain uncertain.
To bring a little enjoyment as well as meeting essential needs, The Salvation Army has been including Lego construction toys with the family food parcels, thanks to generous donations from the Lego Group. Young people associated with The Salvation Army in Valby – a suburb of Copenhagen – have been helping to deliver the fun-filled parcels, adhering to prevailing guidelines on social distancing.
The Salvation Army in Denmark is also planning for a safe restoration of Sunday worship, in light of news that the government intends to permit faith-related gatherings from Sunday 24 May.
In the United Kingdom, which remains largely subject to a ‘stay at home’ order, team members at The Salvation Army’s regional food distribution hub in Croydon, South London, were encouraged by a royal visit. Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank rolled up their sleeves to help pack emergency parcels – some of 22,000 being distributed across the country as part of the UK’s biggest emergency food response in more than 60 years.
The princess said: ‘In the past few years I have witnessed first hand [The Salvation Army’s] dedication and hard work, so when they invited Jack and I to their newly-created hub to pack boxes, we jumped at the chance. As a group of volunteers, we helped pack trolleys of food that are distributed to The Salvation Army’s hugely-important and much-needed food banks that feed thousands across the UK.’
Major Valerie Mylechreest, The Salvation Army’s Divisional Commander for South London, said: ‘Her Royal Highness Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack really became part of our team effort during their visit, joining volunteers in our socially-distanced production lines to help get food to people who would otherwise go hungry.
‘It was a wonderful morale boost for everyone at the hub who are working around the clock as more and more desperate people are reaching out to us. We are ready to help them thanks to the generous support of British businesses and members of the public.’
In many parts of the world, however, new responses to the coronavirus pandemic are still being developed and introduced. The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services team in London has now approved and resourced relief work in more than 50 countries, over and beyond the responses put in action by Salvation Army territories and commands worldwide.
Some of the most recently-introduced initiatives include:
• In the Philippines, Salvation Army teams are helping to feed people quarantined in sports stadiums and other official venues in Manila, having been diagnosed with COVID-19.
• A pre-paid grocery voucher scheme is offering relief to nearly 250 families and individuals in the Middle Eastern state of Bahrain.
• In Xochimilco, Mexico, similar vouchers can be exchanged for a food box, in a scheme designed to feed a family of three for at least two weeks. Meanwhile, prepared food will be handed out from the organisation’s La Esperanza shelter to 125 homeless people per day, for 60 days.
• Food support for vulnerable families is shortly to be introduced following needs assessments in Cuba, Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
• The Ministry of Local Government has asked The Salvation Army in Jamaica to assist in feeding people who have lost their jobs – and therefore income – in the capital, Kingston. Around 100 families (300 individuals) will receive emergency food parcels, and approximately 200 homeless people will have daily cooked meals provided.
• The Salvation Army in Belize is continuing its feeding program for people affected by COVID-19, at least until the end of the month. More than 10,000 pantry packages have been distributed since the programme began in March.
Regular updates on The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 response around the world can be found on our interactive Google Map, which is accessible via our special web page at sar.my/covid19.