March 15, 2020
Dear Friends of GCF,
It has come to pass that we are not just reading about COVID-19 from afar but affected in some way by its emergence in our country and our communities. Each morning I awake to further developments that indicate we have not yet seen its peak. My heart aches at the suffering caused by this virus. We read of alarming increases in the rates of infection while communities, businesses, families, and individuals grapple with issues around access to food, critical services, employment, financial security, and basic needs. Our sense of community through lived-experience, already challenged in so many ways in this digital age, confronts further challenges as we choose or are forced to physically isolate ourselves from one another.
I am also heartened by countless examples of service and kindness by those who are providing their support so selflessly in so many ways to stem the spread of this virus and be in service to those in need. I see no limit to this in the communities we serve and beyond.
Over the past couple of weeks, Global Campuses, either in response to our agency partners’ requests or unilaterally chose to temporarily suspend in-person classes at our twelve campuses. Our partners and we made this decision in the best interest of our participants and the GCF team. Our highest priority is the health and safety of the vulnerable population we serve. We are determined, however, to not allow this pandemic to prevent us from continuing the important connections we share with over 200 participants throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. For adults who experience disabilities, isolation is a constant threat to wellness. This was forefront on our minds as we contemplated and then made the decision to suspend in-person classes. With campuses in rural villages in northwest Thailand that serve persons with physical disabilities, our concern stretches across borders and oceans. We are in communication with our Thailand partners in Chiang Mai and are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers as they navigate similar and other issues complicated by a rural infrastructure that in places is not mindful of mobility and accessibility.
Our well-established and proven educational approaches, inside and outside the classroom, help to equip participants with the confidence, skills and opportunities they need to contribute to their communities and develop meaningful relationships with community members. Our participants constantly express to us and demonstrate the importance of the social interactions they experience with their fellow teachers and learners, and the impact of the relationships they develop in their communities through our collaboration. With the limitations we currently face, we are developing an online model that we hope will enable our participants to continue sharing their knowledge with each other on the current academic topic of World Cultures, as well as other topics. Our academic team is hard at work in developing a curriculum, and will continue to keep the lines of communication open with their direct support staff and our partner agencies for further input and refinement. Although GCF understands that access to computers and the internet is a challenge for many of our participants and that this can be viewed as an obstacle or impediment to the delivery of our unique academic model, given the current circumstances we believe the creative use of technology and distance learning is an opportunity that can keep our vibrant community of teachers and learners connected.
Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone’s health and wellness. Please continue to take all necessary precautions. We believe we will emerge from this stronger, more connected, and more passionate about preserving all that is innately good about our communities and connections.
Steve Tavella / Executive Director