COVID-19 update from Mennonite Disaster Service: closing all projects

COVID-19 update from Mennonite Disaster Service: closing all projects

WINNIPEG, Man. -- Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) has decided to close all of its projects due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, effective March 13.

All volunteers in the U.S. and Canada scheduled to travel to service locations in the U.S. have been told to cancel their plans and stay home, and leaders at the project sites have been instructed to begin the process of closing them up.

“It’s not a decision we ever expected to make,” says executive director Kevin King. “But given the rapidly changing situation with the virus, we needed to do it. The health and safety of our volunteers, and of the people in the communities where we are serving, is our top priority.”

King noted the Centers for Disease Control and the Public Health Agency of the Government of Canada are calling on people to practice social distancing to keep the virus from spreading, including not gathering in larger groups and travelling.

With that in mind, King said MDS also made the decision in the spirit of “being a good and caring citizen by restricting travel and movement so as to try to limit the spread of the virus. Whatever we can do to keep people healthy, and out of hospitals, is the right thing to do,” he said.

MDS is also doing this “because we are followers of Jesus,” he added.

“Jesus calls on us to care for the well-being of others, and especially for the sick, weak and vulnerable. As people who want to show God’s love to the world, we want to make that love visible in all we do. This includes our responsibility to the broader communities we work and live in during a time of pandemic.”

This decision applies to projects operated by MDS regions and bi-national in Marianna, Winter Haven, Panama City and Chipley, FL; Greenbrier, WV; Rio Grande, Wharton, Victoria and Coastal Bend, TX; Puerto Rico; Pollocksville, NC; the bridges project in West Virginia; Bennettsville and Burgaw, SC; and Ukiah, CA.

Projects operated by local MDS units in the U.S. have also been asked to close. There are no MDS projects in Canada at this time.

MDS will continue to monitor the situation, King said, and will resume operations once it is safe to do so.

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 For more information, contact Ross Penner, director of Canadian operations, 204-261-1274 (O), 204-218-4436 (C).