Australian Volunteers International

March 27, 2020

How AVI is responding to COVID-19

It’s hard to believe, as I write this monthly update, just how much has changed in the past two weeks.

As an organisation that exists to bring people together to share knowledge and build capacity where it’s needed most, the impact of COVID-19 has challenged our very ethos.

Building on a history of emergency responses, AVI rapidly enacted its Pandemic Plan and Crisis Management Team, prioritising the safety and wellbeing of our team and all volunteers, mentors and technical advisers overseas.

For the Australian Volunteers Program, this has meant a planned, phased and risk-based repatriation of all Australian volunteers. It has also meant a temporarily suspension of mobilising participants overseas.

It is an unprecedented move in the almost 70 years we have worked to support people-to-people development – but a necessary one. No decision has been made lightly or with ease, but they have been made in the very best interests of the people in our care.

One of AVI’s core beliefs is the importance of relationships built on mutual respect and trust, many of which have carried us through this difficult time. Our heartfelt thanks go to the support of all those parties, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Corporate Traveller and International SOS.

To ensure their safety, our Melbourne staff are currently working from home and in-country staff arrangements are being closely assessed and adjusted in line with local government advice and our security assessment.

And so we, along with you all, slowly settle into our new normal, for however long it may last.

I’m extremely proud of how our team has banded together over the past weeks, not only leveraging our sound systems and processes to respond to an emergency but also in their ability to adapt to new forms of remote collaboration and maintain morale.

We are using this time to work on the many projects in our annual plan, including a new website, cyber security upgrades, a Melbourne office relocation as well as exciting initiatives that will see AVI harness its experience, expertise and systems in new ways.

In this way, AVI is stronger and ready for the post COVID-19 world.

I look forward to sharing with you details over the coming months. Until then, please stay safe and look after each other.

Kind regards,

Paul Bird