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Presbyterian Disaster Assistance suspends volunteer trips

Move follows churchwide ban on domestic and international travel in light of coronavirus

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Volunteers from Knox Presbyterian Church in Naperville, Illinois, pray in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Michelle Muñiz)

LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has made the difficult decision to call for the closure of volunteer host sites and cancel volunteer trips through June.

“At this time, the coronavirus continues to spread with more cases in more communities,” the Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, director of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), wrote in an announcement of the decision, which was also signed by the Rev. Jim Kirk, Associate for Disaster Response (U.S.), and Eden Roberts, Mission Specialist II for Hosting and Volunteer Management.

“The experts have been consistent with their guidance to limit travel and follow social distancing recommendations. As a way of being proactive, to limit the possibility of someone carrying the virus or contracting the virus, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has suspended all international and domestic travel indefinitely.”

PDA, the announcement said, would follow suit.

“Effective immediately we are strongly recommending that all PDA partner host sites throughout the states and territories suspend hosting activities at least through June of 2020,” it said. “We are reaching out to all volunteer groups that are registered through June and strongly recommending that they cancel and reschedule their trips.”

PDA supports 43 volunteer host sites in 17 U.S. states and territories, and one in Mexico for border ministry.

PDA is also suspending National Response Team deployments until the travel ban is lifted but will continue to virtually respond to areas impacted by disaster during this time.

The announcement acknowledged this will be a hardship on groups that have been planning trips, as well as the sites planning to host them and communities looking forward to their help.

“However, this is the right decision so that in the long term we can help to stop the spread of the coronavirus as quickly as possible,” it said. “In the long term, we can keep our faithful volunteers healthy and remove the possibility that our volunteers might bring the virus to another community. In the long term, there will be volunteer groups ready to resume the crucial work of Long-Term Recovery.”

One way that Presbyterians can support the work of PDA during this time, the announcement noted, is through gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering. The offering, which is principally collected through Lent, directly benefits PDA, as well as the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Committee on the Self-Development of People.

As many churches are not having live, in-person services due to the coronavirus, the ministries are reminding people that donations can be made online and through the mail.

People with questions about the volunteer sites are invited to email

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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