“What is the greater impact of COVID on travel?”
That was the biggest question on our minds in early February. Every day, every hour, every minute it seemed that things progressively changed. It started with an addition of health screenings in airports, then devolved to countries refusing entry to flights incoming from Europe, and then the finality of all borders slamming shut.
Within a span of two weeks we went from planning hopeful visits across the globe, to a complete standstill. As time went on it became painfully obvious that every aspect of travel, domestic or international, was highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that none of us could anticipate.
At Children’s HopeChest’s headquarters, we found ourselves very suddenly being transitioned to working from home, stay-at-home measures being implemented here in Colorado, and sorting through the emotions and stresses of COVID-19 life.
As Travel Managers, the transition struck a more personal note with the shut-down of travel as a whole. We had difficult and sobering conversations with team leaders about cancelling their visits. Many hours of our time were spent tracking the news, speaking with our Country Directors, and following updates from the embassies. The more that was discovered, the more decisive it became that we needed to make the responsible decision to cancel travel for all of 2020.
As difficult as this decision was, we needed to trust the Lord that He knew what He was doing. If the Word says that He can turn ashes into beauty, then hope can come from hopeless situations. Through much contemplation, and a change of mindset, we sought to find opportunities to grow despite the shortcomings we have experienced this year. Instead of focusing on what we couldn’t do, we started to focus on improving and reshaping the way we do travel as a whole.
Through this change of pace, we are excited to share that we have been working with country staff to create a virtual experience for those who are unable to travel. We know that traveling to your CarePoint is about building relationships and forming connections. Through virtual travel, we hope to continue creating a space for our partners to remain engaged while inviting those who have not been able to travel before.
In fact, we have our first Virtual Vision Trip to Uganda for potential partners scheduled this month. A first in HopeChest history!
It has been a long, unexpected road, but without the change in direction we may have never seen virtual travel as an option. As we look forward, we are excited to see this side of our programs expand with excellence and open up new opportunities for communities to connect across oceans. We encourage you, our HopeChest Friends and partners, to look for hope during these tumultuous times. Through the ups and downs, the Lord always has a greater plan in mind that is just as unexpected as our circumstances.
Nina’s role at HopeChest connects North American communities to their partnered communities overseas through planning and managing partner visits as well as supporting sponsorship needs. She graduated from Whitworth University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology. If Nina was stranded on a desert island with one album to play on repeat, it would be “Staying at Tamara’s” by George Ezra. An ideal day off for Nina would be spent fishing, hiking, and reading in Eleven Mile Canyon with her family.
Sami supports sponsorship needs and manages HopeChest partners’ visits to CarePoints for Russia, Ethiopia, Moldova, Uganda, and Kenya. She graduated from Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida with a master’s and bachelor’s in Exceptional Student Education K-12. An ideal day off for Sami would include being curled up next to the fireplace with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book (maybe her favorite book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”) while a blizzard swirls outside. If she had a superpower, it would be telekinesis which would allow her to stay cozy under a blanket on her perfect snow day instead of having to get up to turn off a light switch or grab more tea.