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LIVE UPDATES: World Relief Responds to COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, its effects on individuals and communities across the globe only grows. Though our world may be changing every day, our mission at World Relief remains unchanged.

For over 75 years, we’ve been responding to the world’s most pressing humanitarian problems, and we are committed to supporting those who are most vulnerable during the pandemic and empowering local churches across the globe to the same. 

Currently, we are responding to the novel coronavirus in 10 countries across the globe, the U.S. included. Follow along below for live updates on how we are supporting and empowering those communities at this time. 


International Response

Updated on June 12th

  • DRC
    • Prevention messages continue to be given by volunteers while respecting social distancing.
  • Malawi
    • Follow-ups have been made in 20 local churches out of the 400 that received COVID-19 materials to ensure there is continuous delivery of the prevention messages in Mzikubola and Mbelwa.

Updated on June 4th

  • Burundi
    • In collaboration with our Templeton project stakeholders, we installed water tanks at community facilities and taught about the importance of handwashing.
  • Haiti
    • Churches in all areas continue to make masks with World Relief support. The current target is 7,500 masks. This week, an effort is being made to reach our most remote churches and especially our savings groups.
  • Kenya
    • World Relief continues to support staff, volunteers and our church networks with protective gear such as masks, sanitizers and soap during COVID-19 trainings.
  • Rwanda
    • In the Ngoma Church Empowerment Zone, church leaders continue to support the most vulnerable with food and other basic needs items.

Updated on June 1st

  • Burundi
    • We provided hand washing systems at each of our training centers along with posters to remind people of key times to wash their hands.    
  • DRC
    • 425 men and 735 women were sensitized on prevention measures in the Kako and Kiwanja church networks. 
  • Rwanda
    • In our Musanze church network, church and local leaders were given COVID-19 lessons in small groups to allow for social distancing. In addition to prevention lessons, we discussed how churches can continue to reach out and support the most vulnerable within their communities.

Updated on May 28th 

  •  Cambodia
    • Community-based staff are still visiting households, mostly the participants in the program. Some visits are for training, some are motivational, some are to continue sharing of COVID-19 prevention messages. 
  • Haiti
    • We are using a phone tree to stay connected with pastors and volunteers during stay at home orders. This will be an encouragement to the pastors and volunteers while also helping our staff to remain meaningfully engaged. Our Haiti staff is also using this time to take an in-depth look at curricula and resources and brainstorm about ways to innovate our programs. We may not be able to do field work currently, but we can be better prepared to work more effectively in the next season!
  • Rwanda
    • In our Ngoma Church Empowerment Zone, our agriculture beneficiaries were happy to be able to continue farming activities during COVID-19 confinement and are now harvesting their crops with increased production. In our Musanze Church Empowerment Zone, savings group committee members met to discuss how to reopen savings meetings while implementing COVID-19 prevention measures.

Updated on May 26th 

  • Burundi
    • Over the past week we communicated twice via text messages with 183 church leaders, reminding them of key practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • DRC
    • 619 volunteers were trained on different methods of combating COVID-19 in our Kako and Kiwanja Church Empowerment Zones. 
  • Malawi
    • In Chitipa, pastors and leaders from 16 partner churches in our network were trained on how to deliver COVID-19 prevention messages to their congregations using the sermon guide that World Relief developed.

Updated on May 22nd 

  • Haiti
    • One of World Relief’s church networks in Laurent has learned how to produce hand sanitizer. They have been supplying some of the local markets at a time when the product cannot be easily found.
    • Churches in Les Cayes have begun producing masks.
  • Burundi
    • 107 people from our Savings for Life programs in Buraza received messaging about the importance of Covid response and proper handwashing.
  • Malawi
    • In Ntchisi District, 112 people from 23 churches were trained on COVID-19 prevention. These people then reached out to 560 households to reinforce regular handwashing.
    • In order to strengthen families’ responses to COVID 19, over 3,070 Families for Life program mentors and couples were trained on COVID 19 facts and prevention measures in the Mzimba, Nkhotakota and Ntchisi Districts.
  • Rwanda
    • In the Nyamasheke church empowerment zone, outreach volunteers were trained on Covid-19 prevention measures. In the Bugusera church empowerment zone, one-on-one meetings were conducted with church leaders to discuss disease prevention measures.

Updated on May 15th 

  • South Sudan
    • Last week alone, World Relief reached over 59,000 people with Covid-19 prevention messaging. This included school children, pregnant mothers, farmers, savings groups, prison staff, pastors and other community members. 
  • Sudan
    • In the last 2 weeks, 14,000 people have received COVID-19 prevention messages using microphone/mobile broadcast systems.
  • DRC
    • This week included sensitization on Covid-19 prevention for SFL members, SGBV club volunteers and mothers of victims of sexual violence.
  • Kenya
    • This week Covid-19 sensitization training took place in three church networks (Nkurumani, Torosei and Oltepesi).
  • Rwanda
    • Digital savings groups are now in full effect. Church networks in Rwanda are adjusting programming in response to the heavy rains and are adapting so that their records can be kept on tablets.

Updated on May 7th 

  • Burundi
    • Packages of COVID-19 prevention materials have been sent to churches, Savings For Life groups and committees, and CNC meetings. Many are being trained in COVID-19 prevention messaging.
  • Cambodia
    • Our Cambodia team is expanding their outreach to home visits in areas not previously reached.
  • Malawi
    • In Chitipa District in the far Northern Region of Malawi, 6 out of the 13 church networks have been oriented on COVID-19 lessons for churches and pastors. Church leaders have reached out to 1,790 local church members.
  • Rwanda
    • The Rwanda team met with beneficiaries, pastors and local leaders to discuss partnership activities regarding COVID-19 prevention.
  • South Sudan 
    • Our South Sudan office has critical nutrition, water and sanitation supplies that are awaiting clearance by the government for transport.

Updated on May 4th 

  • Burundi
    • Hand washing demonstrations and COVID-19 messaging were shared using social distancing during church mobilization training in the new Church Network in Nyabihanga Commune.
  • DRC
    • We took advantage of already planned agricultural programming in the province of Tanganyika to spread COVID prevention messaging. Using songs played through a loudspeaker installed on our vehicle, we circulated in villages raising awareness and reaching 4,291 people.
    • 3,201 people were reached with prevention messaging through outreach to local churches in our Kiwanja, Mugunga, and Kako church networks. 
  • Haiti
    • Savings For Life groups have largely adjusted to the gathering size restriction and are being equipped with handwashing stations for their meetings. Feedback from our local church networks indicates the need for more soap and sanitizer, masks, immediate food assistance and seeds for the upcoming planting season.
  • Malawi
    • World Relief Malawi continues its operation in its rural communities, intensifying raising awareness on the facts of COVID 19.
  • Rwanda
    • World Relief reopened offices since the lockdown was lifted down by the government. They spent the day planning how to resume field and office activities while fully following COVID-19 measures of prevention.

Updated on May 1st 

  • Burundi 
    • In Giheta, an area in which we haven’t yet had much influence, church leaders organized gatherings on their own and shared COVID-19 prevention messaging with 257 people. This was made possible because World Relief staff and volunteers shared flyers on COVID-19 prevention.
  • Malawi
    • World Relief is continuing its operation in rural communities and provided the COVID-19 materials to 237 churches (192 Mbelwa, and 45 in Mzikubola), representing nearly 50% of the total churches that we work with in the Mzimba District.
  • Rwanda
    • In the Ngoma church networks, 350 farmers were given beetroot, carrot and snap bean seeds. This activity was done on three different sites to avoid gathering too many people in one place, and social distancing was used.
  • South Sudan
    • Cloth masks are now being recommended by the South Sudan Ministry of Health for use by the general public. World Relief is procuring two cloth masks for each of our staff and volunteers. World Relief has also secured face shields for healthcare workers.

Updated on April 30th

  • Burundi
    • Volunteers reached 10 savings groups (236 members) that normally gather on Monday afternoon twice a month, in Makebuko commune and delivered prevention lessons while employing social distancing.
  • Malawi
    • A total of 22 local churches in Mndola and Chagunda Church Networks have benefited from the messages, posters and leaflets that were given out. Eight village headmen, together with their village development committees (VDCs), seven community facilitators, 10 lead farmers and 12 mentors for child development have been trained to disseminate COVID-19 messaging.
  • Rwanda
    • 639 pastors have access to WhatsApp and are able to receive and read messages sent to them regarding COVID-19. In Nyamasheke and Karongi church networks, 254 beneficiaries and 168 beneficiaries respectively were supported by the church and World Relief with food and hygiene items.
  • Sudan
    • World Relief is purchasing handwashing facilities and materials needed for crowd control during food distribution.

Updated on April 24th

  • Haiti
    • Churches are expressing great concern for “the crises after the crisis,” most notably agriculture/food security, and economics. These are the issues that their communities are raising. This is where they feel the most equipped to respond, if only they could find the resources.
  • Kenya
    • Field staff are actively engaged with activities around COVID-19 working hand-in-hand with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to get protective gear to all staff, volunteers and stakeholders directly working with us during community sensitization on COVID-19.
  • Malawi
    • 6 community promoters were trained in COVID-19 messages, and they have reached 146 FARMSE volunteers, 12 FFL Mentor Couples, 94 CNC Members, and 4 Group Village Headmen.
  • Rwanda
    • The Rwanda office has facilitated a WhatsApp group of pastors which has now reached 328 members. This group is supporting families in their areas, and plans to support 3,500 people total.

Updated on April 22nd

  • Malawi
    • 58 churches have received posters for their walls on facts and key prevention measures of  COVID -19 prevention messages.
    • 40 church leaders who were given a bucket and basins for handwashing were also trained in construction of hand washing facilities using locally available resources.
    • These church leaders have so far reached about 1080 households.  
  • South Sudan
    • We’ve now reached 784 households with COVID-19 key messages during house-to-house visits in the community.
    • We’ve also reached 457 individuals (19 male; 438 female) with COVID-19 key messages in nutrition.

Updated on April 19th

  • Rwanda
    • We have provided food and hygiene kits for 29 Church Network Committees (over 400 individual churches) to give to the most vulnerable in their communities.
    • We shared COVID-19 messages with pastors who have smartphones. 
  • Cambodia
    • Nearly all villages where we conduct home visits have received an initial round of COVID-19 prevention lessons.
  • South Sudan
    • We distributed seeds to 4,009 households. 
    • We set-up handwashing stations in compliance with international/national recommended measures and created roped off lines to promote social distancing.
  • Sudan
    • We are in the process of purchasing food items in bulk, which will be distributed to 500 refugee households.
  • Malawi
    • We are preparing to roll out prevention messages through public addresses and brochures.

Updated on: April 12th

  • Burundi
    • 483 community leaders (including local officials, church leaders, volunteers) have been trained to share virus prevention messaging this week. They will be key influencers in the community.
  • Malawi
    • We are supporting a massive awareness campaign on COVID-19 through our partnership with Y Malawi. 
    • 40 Churches were given handwashing buckets with soap as a startup kit.
  • Sudan
    • We are supporting around 500 refugees in Khartoum to mitigate the economic and social impact of COVID-19 on refugees.
    • We obtained $150K from the OCHA Emergency response fund to create awareness on COVID-19.
    • We obtained WASH (water, sanitation & hygiene) support to benefit around 1.3M people in Central Darfur and 247,826 people in West Darfur.

Updated on: April 5th

  • Cambodia
    • 3,100 households in 155 villages have received COVID-19 prevention messaging thus far.
  • Congo
    • We are repurposing handwashing stations created for Ebola and leveraging our messaging networks in North Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika Provinces to improve protection from COVID-19.
  • Kenya
    •  Over 8,000 people have received social behavior-change messaging in Turkana and Kajiado counties.
  • Haiti
    • Over 100 Outreach Group volunteers are being trained in COVID-19 related messaging, which will reach 400+ households.


U.S. Response

In addition to continuing much of our vital programming like English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and Immigration Legal Services (ILS) virtually, our offices are also finding new ways to serve the most vulnerable in their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s some of what they’ve been up to recently.

Updated on June 12th

  • Memphis
    • Our Resilient Sewing Program for refugee women has continued remotely since mid-March. The ladies have sewn hundreds of masks, but more recently they have been working on new projects while expanding their skills and proficiency. 
  • Triad
    • Throughout the challenges of COVID-19, we have continued to serve our community in ways that are responsible and safe. As North Carolina eases restrictions and we prepare to re-open our offices, the health and safety of our clients and staff remains a top priority. But we couldn’t do it alone! Churches, volunteers, and donors have stepped up to supply masks, gloves, sanitizer, cleaner, and clear barriers that will help us keep serving our community while protecting one another. Thank you for continuing to love your immigrant, refugee, and survivor neighbors!
  • Chicago
    • Thank you for helping to fund 620 face masks made by Re:New refugee Artisans for refugees resettled by World Relief Chicagoland in honor of World Refugee Day on June 20th. Re:new is 10% of the way toward their goal!

Updated on June 4th

  • Chicago
    • Two brothers from Afghanistan are using their tailor shop to make affordable masks for their neighborhood so that even those with little money or resources can stay protected during COVID-19. 
    • To celebrate World Refugee Day June 20, Re:New and World Relief in Chicagoland are collaborating to bring awareness to the global refugee crisis while dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19. Re:new donated 620 masks made by refugee artisans for refugees who are being resettled by World Relief. Thank you Re:new!
  • Triad
    • This week, Mercy Hill Church delivered masks, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper for us to distribute to our client. The Summit Church dropped off care packages for some of the clients of our Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Community Bible Church came by to help make plexiglass shields for our reception desks and meeting spaces to prepare for re-opening our offices. We’re so thankful for our amazing church partners!⠀
  • North Texas
    • On Saturday, we distributed 300 boxes of food to families in the Kennedale community! Weekly, we are seeing thousands of families be fed through partnerships we have with churches across North Texas.

Updated on May 29th 

  • Chicago
    • Over the last month, through collaborating with Exodus, New Life Albany Park, and local food banks, 30 volunteers have made over 80 grocery deliveries to 35 World Relief Chicago families, delivering an estimated $4,100 of dry goods and fresh items.
  • Durham
    • Helped provide food to youth in the tutoring program (150 youth). 
  • Fox Valley
    • Currently providing emergency relief to families who lost jobs or face hardships to help them get through until other assistance takes effect. This includes food, rent, utilities, etc.
  • North Texas
    • Partnering with two food banks and the Salvation Army. In the past two weeks, we have distributed 15,000 boxes of food with the help of church volunteers. This has been an ongoing ministry, but is quickly increasing in size each week.
  • Seattle
    • Served 20,000 people so far since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are distributing boxes that feed a family of 4 for 3-4 days. We are averaging about 1,000 families per week right now.
  • Spokane
    • We are connecting churches and local groups to communities in need. For example, one church partner is supporting a couple dozen families at one apartment complex with some weekly food deliveries.
  • Triad
    • We are receiving regular monthly food deliveries from the Salvation Army (ongoing for 2+ years) that are available to families in need. The local community is aware of the resources. Recently, we have also coordinated with local organizations to distribute 2,000 pounds of rice and staples to immigrant families experiencing hardship.

Updates on May 28th 

  • North Texas
    • We are working with Compass Church in Colleyville and 35 other churches in North Texas to distribute 7,500 boxes of fresh produce and food weekly to families across multiple cities. 
  • Seattle
    • In the span of only weeks, we expanded from 300 to over 800 boxes of food and supplies  distributed every week. Families who need them also receive other essentials such as diapers, wipes, and feminine products.

Updated on May 22nd: 

  • North Texas
    • 400 families were served on a single Saturday through Normandale Baptist Church’s food distribution. Our friends at the Texas National Guard also came out to help!
  • Spokane
    • Last week, the WEAVE team sewed their 1,000th mask! Six weeks ago, we launched a mobile branch of the WEAVE program, empowering refugee sewists to use their craft skills to give back to the community. The “WEAVE-mobile” makes weekly deliveries of supplies to sewists and takes completed masks to those in need. Local donors have not only provided meaningful work for WEAVE sewists, but have played a huge role in outfitting Spokane with PPE for the coming months.

Updated on May 15th: 

  • Chicago
    • Last year, volunteers from The Brook church agreed to host a World Relief English class, but then the pandemic hit and they never got to do that. So instead, they’ve put together COVID-19 care packages for immigrants and refugees, letting the students know they care about them even with English classes at The Brook on hold for the time.
  • SoCal
    • 20 families in Orange County received Art from Home kits this week. 
    • The application process for Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) program starts on May 18th. This program seeks to provide financial assistance for immigrants in California affected by COVID-19 and did not qualify for other forms of relief.

Updated on May 8th: 

  • Durham: 
    • Kjerstin Lewis, our ILS Program Manager, is advocating for immigrants from North Carolina who are being detained in a Georgia facility. We are asking others to join us in advocating for the release of nonviolent detained immigrants as a matter of public health in light of the pandemic.
  • North Texas: 
    • American Myanmar Mission Church, one of our church partners, made hundreds of masks to donate around Tarrant County.
  • Southern California: 
    • In the months of March and April, World Relief SoCal helped renew more than 85 EAD cards in partnership with the California Department of Social Services.
  • Seattle:
    • This week we distributed 510 boxes of food, gathered supplies for in-home learning kits for families and helped 12 people with immigration legal services. 

Updated on April 30th:

  • Triad: 
    • Earlier this week, we received an amazing donation of rice from our friends at Rise Against Hunger. With the help of local immigrant churches and our wonderful volunteers we’ve distributed all 2,000 pounds of rice to families in need. 
  • North Texas: 
    • World Relief North Texas is continuing to serve the community during COVID-19 through direct cash assistance, emergency rent assistance for our most vulnerable, food and supplies, as well as continuing our regular services remotely like immigration legal  assistance, employment counseling and youth mentorship.
  • Sacramento:
    • Last week we launched a COVID-19 community response fund and we have already seen a generous response. We are looking to raise $30,000 to support refugees and immigrants in Sacramento. We have a donor willing to match up to $10,000 of gifts made! 
  • Memphis:
    • Two ladies have sewn hundreds of face masks after a volunteer shared a YouTube video with them and sourced fabric.

Updated on April 20th:

  • Spokane: 
    • We launched the #CARESforOthers campaign, inviting people who do not need their stimulus check to supplement their income to donate a portion of it to help neighbors in need.

Updated on April 16th:

  • Triad
    • Our team has adopted a Holistic Community Care Plan, which connects families with the essentials they need through regular phone check-ins, continued access to mental health services and teletherapy, assistance with the transition to online schooling and access to virtual English language practice. 
  • Seattle: 
    • We are providing non-perishable grocery distribution to community members. Grocery boxes will provide food for a family of four for two days.
  • North Texas: 
    • Burmese refugees participating in our women’s sewing initiative made 150 masks to deliver to the Texas Oncology Cancer Clinic.
  • Durham
    • Several of our immigrant clients have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. We are remotely working to help them secure new employment as well as assisting with unemployment paperwork.
  • Sacramento: 
    • Our education team has teamed up with local elementary schools to distribute laptops to students without access to computers for remote learning.
  • Memphis: 
    • One of our church partners is delivering groceries to immigrant families who do not have access to a vehicle to drive to the local food pantry.
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