Jonathan Smyth

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April 1

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Apr 1, 2020 5:53:02 PM

In recent days we’ve had a few teachers return to the United States on repatriation flights that are being provided by the US Embassy. Most recently, several teachers returned from Tunisia and arrived safely. There are currently two other teachers in the Middle East who will be returning this weekend. 

Across the organization, we continue to hear stories of hope and joy as our teachers wait. These days are not without their trials and difficulties, but everyone is in a stable, safe location.

March 26

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 26, 2020 11:53:11 AM

Many people have been asking about our summer programs that have been scheduled for May, June, and July departures. Earlier this week, ELIC President, Tim Davis, wrote a letter outlining our plans for this summer. The full letter is available for you to read by clicking here. Below are the action items from the letter that explain the options for each committed teacher. 

While optimism for these programs has been high, the reality is beginning to set in. Given these ever-changing dynamics, we have made a couple of decisions regarding those who have committed to participate in these programs.

1. There is a possibility that a handful of programs will still take place. We don’t yet know which countries or what the teaching needs will be. We are aware that many participants who have committed are willing to wait in the midst of this uncertainty. For those willing to wait to see what unfolds, we are grateful and we will keep you updated on a regular basis.

2. For many of our summer participants, a better option is to simply postpone their trip to the summer of 2021. We welcome you to simply defer your commitment to next summer. Our team of Candidate Advisors will continue to work with you throughout the next year and prepare you for an amazing summer of service next year. Any funds that have been raised so far can be used in any program for the next two years.

3. Lastly, we recognize that neither going this summer nor deferring to a future summer will work for some people. In those instances, your donor can choose to instead support another teacher in the country where you were planning to go or they can request a refund for funds received on your behalf. Simply ask your donors to email ELIC (email addressed removed from the blog post to prevent unwanted spam) to let us know what they would like to do.

March 24

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 24, 2020 1:44:45 PM

Over the last few days we have worked with consulates, embassies, airlines, travel agents, and our leadership teams to help many of our teachers relocate and find a place to settle as borders across the world are closing. We’re happy to report that the teachers who were on the move have arrived safely to their final destinations. Since February, many of our teachers have been unable to return to their primary country of service due to the outbreak. Of those who have been displaced, approximately 90% have now returned to their passport country.  

With everyone now settled into where they will remain for the foreseeable future, we are focusing our efforts on providing ongoing member care resources for them and finding creative ways to utilize technology to bring everyone together.

March 20

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 20, 2020 5:51:36 PM

Yesterday afternoon, the US State Department declared a global Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory.  This "advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19."

The State Department urged Americans "in countries where commercial departure options remain available" to "arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.”

Based on these directions from the US State Department, over the past 24 hours we have talked directly to our leadership teams in every country of service to advise all of our teachers and global families that they have the option to arrange travel back to the US/Canada (or their specific passport country) or to choose to remain in their current location. We have made it clear that in choosing to stay it will be very difficult for us to assist in their return to North America later, or it might be impossible to do so based on travel restrictions. We do not know the timeframe of this advisory from the State Department.

A number of our China-based teachers and families, who were scattered globally, are either already en route to North America or are making plans to return within a few days. The majority of our people, who have been in their countries of service, have chosen to stay put, with a few exceptions.

March 18

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 18, 2020 10:48:51 AM

One specific question we are being asked on a daily basis is in regards to our summer programs. Our summer program participants typically depart in the months of May, June, and July depending on which program or country they are a part of. 

We are still weighing our options for summer programs and continue to work with those who have committed to these programs. We are in constant communication with our leadership teams overseas who are working with our educational partners to evaluate the possibility of these programs. We plan to have a definitive plan in place before the end of March that we will begin communicating to our short-term commits and will also communicate here on this blog. 

March 17

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 17, 2020 11:21:00 AM

As of noon today, our US headquarters in Colorado has encouraged employees who are able to work from home to do so. This is an effort to align with the desires of our local government to minimize groups of people and social interaction. Our normal operations will continue, but from remote locations. Our senior leadership team will continue to meet in the office each day and practice social distancing while continuing to collaborate on our response to this global pandemic. 

Our global teams continue to monitor developments on a daily basis and make necessary decisions that are appropriate for their unique contexts. Our Crisis Management Team is in constant communication with regional directors in every location where we work. We are continuing to hear positive stories of hope and joy in the midst of uncertainty.

Update 12

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 12, 2020 10:49:49 AM

With all of the travel disruptions and fears of COVID-19, our leadership team in the MENA region along with ELIC's President have decided to postpone the Annual MENA Gathering. This gathering was scheduled to take place March 20-23 in southern Spain. Several of our countries in the MENA region gave notices to our teachers or through their embassies that if our teachers were to travel to Spain then they would not be permitted to return until after a 14-day quarantine.

Our plan is to reschedule this gathering for late May. We know this brings disappointment to our teachers, staff, and guests who were planning to attend, but we're confident that this is the wisest decision to benefit the most people.

Update 11

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 11, 2020 8:57:01 AM

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have many new teachers who are committed to go to a variety of countries globally for both our long-term and short-term programs. We currently have nearly 70 long-term teachers planning to depart in the early fall and more than 150 (so far) committed to participate in our summer short-term programs.

There are many questions that we hope to answer in the coming days and weeks, specifically regarding our summer programs. Our summer programs typically depart North America in late June and return by early August. The programs range from 4-8 weeks long. Our leaders from across the globe are working closely on a daily basis to finalize plans and make contingency plans. Our team of Candidate Advisors in our US headquarters are working diligently to give accurate and timely information to everyone that's planning to participate in a summer program. If any plans shift, the participants will be among the first to know.

Our long-term programs continue to hold steady. At this time, all countries are continuing with their plans as normal, but the team of Candidate Advisors for the long-term teachers are also working day and night to keep everyone informed. Our overseas leaders and staff are working on school placements which is a normal process for this time of year.

Update 10

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 9, 2020 9:11:52 AM

Our inaugural Annual MENA Gathering (AMG) is a couple of weeks away, so a few people are beginning to ask how the spread of the COVID-19 is impacting our plans.

The same precautions put in place at our Thailand conference will be utilized in Spain, too. Our head doctor who attended our Thailand conference will also be attending our MENA gathering. While his focus at this gathering will be childcare, if any emergencies arise, he will be a valuable resource to us.

As the virus spreads across Italy and into areas in the MENA region, the primary issue we've seen so far is minor disruptions to travel plans. A few teachers have had to reroute their flights to get to the MENA gathering location in Spain.

At this time, our primary concern is not the risk of infection for our MENA teachers, but rather the risk of travel disruption. We continue to monitor the situation and its impact on our teachers on a daily basis. We will make adjustments as necessary and post updates here on this blog.

Update 9

Posted by Jonathan Smyth on Mar 4, 2020 8:11:30 AM

In the last few days, our local support staff team called all of the schools to get updates from each school as we approach March 13 (our original anticipated date of return).

Here are a few general points that we heard from schools:

  • Administrative staff are beginning to return to campus to resume work.
  • Plans are being made for students to return though no dates for school starts have been set. 
  • Our schools have been very supportive and are thankful that our teachers have been teaching online. 
  • Some schools have asked us not to return yet. In these cases, we trust their knowledge of their local context and their sense of responsibility to keep our teachers safe.

As we would expect, school starts will vary by city as they are waiting to hear from the local education bureaus. They are very supportive and have indicated that teachers likely do not need to return until March 30 or April 15. 

Schools are very aware of their responsibility for the health and safety of their students and staff.

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