FLEXIBILITY and adaptation are characterising the way in which The Salvation Army responds to communities impacted by the effects of COVID-19 (also known as SARS-CoV-2) right around the world. The movement is meeting new-found needs while also endeavouring to maintain its services to vulnerable people, often needing to amend practices to meet necessarily stringent guidelines and legislation to curb the spread of the coronavirus pathogen.
Examples of the ways in which officers, soldiers, employees, volunteers and supporters of The Salvation Army are ‘rolling up their sleeves’ to respond to COVID-19 situations internationally include:
The Salvation Army in Congo (Brazzaville) is preparing a community awareness-raising programme to increase people’s knowledge about COVID-19 but also to equip individuals with practical disease-prevention measures. Handwashing material will be provided as part of the initiative.
The Liberia and Sierra Leone Command has taken initial safety measures to help protect all officers, employees, centres and schools. The Salvation Army here is planning an intervention strategy for awareness, prevention and care for the victims in the coming days. A social media platform is being set up for sharing preventative measures, awareness and updates on the virus.
In Zambia, The Salvation Army has issued a five-point plan to Salvationists and friends: Pray, Listen, Clean, Care and Act. Territorial leaders Colonels Ian and Wendy Swan observe that ‘it is especially important that we remain aware of the spiritual and physical needs of our communities, and especially the elderly and vulnerable’.
Americas and Caribbean
Salvation Army-run children’s homes in Jamaica have adapted by providing their residents with online teaching tools, enhancing the materials provided by local schools. Technology is also being used to provide access to Bible study materials and online opportunities for worship.
In Argentina, The Salvation Army’s Buenos Aires Social Services Office is distributing bags with non-perishable food and basic necessities to people with limited resources or none at all during these challenging days.
Across in Uruguay, Salvation Army personnel have been supported by fast-food giant Burger King to offer food parcels to families in need in the Patule neighbourhood, Salto. Major Elena Miño is heading up the logistics in order to distribute the food in the best way possible so that they can reach most families in the area. Her team is going house-to-house with the packages in order to minimise social contact.
While professional baseball may have been halted across the USA, the Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman has generously donated US$25,000 to The Salvation Army’s coronavirus response, in light of the Greater Atlanta thrift stores having had to close. As in many areas, staff and volunteers at The Salvation Army Lewisville, near Dallas, Texas, are creatively making necessary adjustments to continue essential services to the community during these uncertain days. Lunch each day is now being delivered ‘to go’ with more than 75 clients picking up their free lunch. One-on-one case management meetings are taking place in the mobile kitchen, maintaining appropriate distancing, with staff working from the front of the truck and clients in the back.
With the temporary closure of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, perishable food items have been donated to The Salvation Army. A truckload of apples, oranges, potatoes and other fresh produce is greatly assisting Salvation Army staff to help those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, particularly shelter residents and drop-in clients in need. ‘We have been serving the populations most vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeless and senior citizens each day,’ says Captain Ken Chapman, Orlando Area Commander. ‘This generous donation means we can serve so many more in need.’ The Salvation Army is serving a free community dinner every weekday and has provided fresh produce to nearly 300 senior citizens nearby.
Homeless people living on the streets of Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, have been unable to adhere to the local authorities’ instructions to ‘stay home’. The Salvation Army is stepping in to ensure that those entering emergency housing can do so for a minimum period of 14 days, in order to provide for the advisory period of self-isolation. In the towns of Jönköping and Huskvarna, Salvation Army corps (churches) are mindful of the impact of coronavirus segregation on the children of vulnerable families they support. In order to address this, they are ensuring that each food parcel distributed is accompanied by a ‘family pack’ including drawing blocks, pens, family games, puzzles, indoor toys, comic books and even packaged sweets! Their Facebook page explains: ‘We want to help in the best way and at the same time spread some hope and joy in our society.’
Creativity is key to The Salvation Army’s response in Norway, Iceland and The Færoes. Food is being served in the streets and left on the doorsteps of vulnerable and elderly people. A new phone service for concerned and isolated people has been established. Parents with toddlers have met with corps leaders for a moment of toddler song through the Houseparty app, in order to make the days of isolation more bearable. Salvation Army officers have walked the streets singing to isolated people on their balconies and have been undertaking visitation by phone. All Salvationists are being encouraged to see and respond to the needs and opportunities around them.
In Latvia, The Salvation Army’s 11 soup kitchens have been continuing to prepare food for distribution in plastic containers, ensuring that recipients maintain a safe distance apart of two metres. Outreach to homeless people in the capital Rīga is operating in a similar way.
Despite a state of emergency in Romania, Salvation Army corps members have been checking up on individuals and family members known to them. The EMAS street team has also deployed, taking all recommended hygiene and safety precautions, to continue its service to people living on the streets of Bucharest.
Due to supply chain problems, The Salvation Army in Belgium has taken the unusual step of asking supporters to use their sewing skills to make new facemasks, to an approved design. Meanwhile, in Estonia, The Salvation Army’s rehabilitation centre has amended its soup kitchen provision to instead provide nutritious meals outdoors while maintaining social distancing.
And in the United Kingdom, one example of the ways in which The Salvation Army is adapting to emerging needs is through the opening of a new drop-in café in Falmouth, south-west England. Adhering to all government guidelines, the café seeks to meet the needs of locals who are hungry, those who are still homeless, those who are feeling increasingly isolated and alone, and those who are concerned, anxious and even fearful of what the future might bring. Comments from diners on the first day of operation include: ‘This meal is like having a million dollars,’ and ‘It’s really nice and comforting that I am still able to come into The Salvation Army and get a hot meal and talk to a few people even though we have to sit further away from each other.’
The Salvation Army is also supporting a National Day of Prayer and Action in the UK, on Sunday 22 March. At 7pm, churches and individuals are encouraged to ‘light a candle in the windows of your homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer’.
The Salvation Army’s Mirpur Clinic in Bangladesh – which usually has a focus on treating tuberculosis and leprosy – is gearing up to support patients presenting with coronavirus symptoms. The Salvation Army is planning to provide awareness material and a starter hygiene pack to around 2,500 people.
Evangeline Booth Hospital in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, run by The Salvation Army’s India Western Territory, has had one of its wards declared by the government as an isolation ward for coronavirus-infected patients. The authorities are referring patients to the hospital.
South Pacific and East Asia
In Singapore, dedicated volunteers and staff from The Salvation Army’s Family Support Services team have been distributing food rations to frail and elderly people. Although elderly day centres across the city-state have closed, Salvation Army social workers are continuing to check in on service users through phone calls and to afford any necessary assistance.
Global healthcare leaders Johnson & Johnson have collaborated with The Salvation Army in Korea to distribute 20,000 face masks and 4,000 emergency relief kits to vulnerable individuals and medical professionals. Each emergency relief kit includes five KF94 masks, disinfection tissues, hand sanitiser and quantities of the company’s Neutrogena hand cream, Listerine mouthwash and Aveeno body wash.
With the closure of all schools in Japan, one unintended consequence is that a significant number of children are going without lunches. Salvation Army corps in strategic locations have stepped in to provide midday meals, meeting basic needs as well as giving children a carefully-managed opportunity to enjoy interaction in small groups.