An update on COVID-19 from John Hecklinger, President and CEO

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In March, as the entire world woke up to the new and unprecedented challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, it became clear that every one of GFC’s local partners serving children and youth would be affected in some way.

I released a statement at the time, outlining the principles that would guide our response. We reaffirmed our commitment to maximum flexibility in funding and reporting, and we expressed our intention to generate emergency support for partners in need. We mobilized quickly, driven by what we were hearing from our local partners and guided by GFC’s values.

It’s important to me that GFC’s big decisions and day-to-day activities draw on the values we have adopted as a team. In early stages, we drew heavily on our value of partnership and its mandate to “serve partners first.” As the GFC team struggled with its own challenges, we collectively drew on our value of passion and its mandate to “embrace passion and kindness.” Mobilizing behind our partners and the young people they serve, while embracing care and empathy, has served us well. I’m proud of our early response.

GFC launched an Emergency Response Fund to issue immediate cash grants to our partners serving children affected by the pandemic around the world. As of June 4, we have approved $280,000 in emergency grants for 96 partners. Our team has been actively listening to our partners, providing comfort, counsel, and connections. I’ve been blessed to be a part of our newly launched CEO Circle, bringing together leaders of our partner organizations to share resources, ideas, struggles, and inspiration.

So many things have changed between the middle of March and the middle of June. In March, it seemed reasonable to postpone our Evening of Courage gala in London to October 2020. That prospect now seems absurd with travel restrictions and social distancing rules likely to be still very much in place. We’re now hoping to hold the gala in April 2021.

In early stages of the crisis, our local partners focused on urgent response activities. Trusted in their communities, these grassroots organizations cut through clouds of misinformation to help communities understand the reality of the situation. Partners provided hygiene kits, food, and other necessities to children and families. Youth and youth-led organizations were some of the first to respond.

As this crisis grinds on, our local partners continue this work and are adapting to new realities – deploying technology in new ways to reach children and youth, adjusting strategies of social enterprises, and finding new ways to keep their teams productive and motivated. They are very concerned about losing ground during this crisis, as social distancing measures and loss of family incomes exacerbate the very issues they work so hard to address. Our partners are seeing increases in child marriage, child trafficking, gender-based violence, and disconnection from education. They are doing their best to address increasing challenges even as funding sources become more scarce with the global economic slowdown. The circumstances shift quickly, as hot spots emerge in new places and governments change policies.

In short, we are in this crisis for the long term. Even if a vaccine arrives soon, we’ve already triggered lasting consequences. For GFC, this means continuing to generate funding both for emergency responses and for long-term adaptation and recovery. To guide us, GFC will maintain its commitment to a few guiding principles, relevant no matter how long this crisis lasts or what our new reality looks like.

  • Flexibility: Our funding and non-financial support will remain flexible and responsive to the needs of our partners. We recognize how quickly the situation in communities can change and activities need to shift. We trust our partners to determine the best use of resources, and we believe in maximizing opportunities for partners to adapt to the challenges facing children and youth on the ground.
  • Responsiveness: We are committed to listening to our partners and to checking our work by asking how we are doing – and how we can do better. We’re conscious of the position of privilege we occupy and will work hard to build trust through frank and transparent communication.
  • Solidarity: We are committed to championing the power of grassroots organizations alongside other funders who share our vision and values, and we believe this moment is critical for philanthropy more generally to act with transparency, clarity, and humility.
  • Safety: During the early stages of this crisis, and as communities deal with long-term consequences, young people will face greater risks to their wellbeing. It’s critical for GFC to be a resource for our partners and others interested in safeguarding these young people now at greater risk of exploitation and harm.

Finally, we are committed to celebrating successes and discovering silver linings. As every individual, family, company, organization, government, and religious institution on the planet struggles to find its way through this crisis, GFC is in a unique position to strengthen the common threads that bind us together more tightly now than perhaps at any time in history.

It’s important for us to recognize the moment we are in, to support each other through it, and to seize the opportunity to emerge stronger.

John Hecklinger, President and CEO

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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