The World Council of Churches is publishing a series of interviews that portray insights and reflections from the leaders of faith-based global and regional humanitarian and development organizations. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi is CEO of Christian Aid, which is based in the UK.
What are the major ways in which you and your staff have had to adapt and/or restructure your work because of COVID-19?
Mukwashi: Christian Aid was already in the process of concluding an ongoing restructuring when the COVID-19 pandemic started. We were able to adapt quickly to use online facilities to engage with staff. We showed agility in repurposing our programmes in 17 countries to respond to the pandemic and help provide communities with the necessary support. In addition, as Christian Aid Week happened to be in May, we developed new ways to fundraise.
What are the “best practices” that led to you retaining your institutional vision and mission while restructuring your work?
Mukwashi: Our global strategy, Standing Together, launched in 2018 informs our choices and points us to work on issues of poverty, power and prophetic voice. In developing our response plan, we tested whether Standing Together was still relevant and fit for purpose in the emerging realities. We engaged the Board of Trustees through the different governance committees and as a whole board to have the necessary conversations on our direction of travel. The open and transparent communications with our Trustees helped us to reaffirm our vision and adopt a plan for the next three years.
What are some signs of hope you have observed along the way?
Mukwashi: Following the lockdown in many countries, we had to turn to digital technology in a way that we had not before. Having meetings where everyone joins in remotely could be seen as having levelled the ground for all to engage. But it is important to reflect on the fact that not everyone had consistent and good quality access to internet. And so we were able to see where the gaps are in terms of the digital divide. We also appreciated that we can learn from others in countries where movement has been limited for a long time. Learning from colleagues in places like Afghanistan or those who have been based in the West Bank or Gaza has been an important reflection of the daily challenges that some of our colleagues live through. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons and signs of hope has been the appreciation and need for human interaction. Isolation has been difficult but people have reached out to each other and this solidarity has kept many people going, as has the ability to pray together in different virtual spaces.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Mukwashi: Staff wellbeing. We have all had anxiety in an uncertain environment as well as being physically disconnected from each other. Not all home environments were conducive, internet connectivity was a problem for some of our partners in countries where we work and despite positive signs, our income has taken a sizeable hit. Our sponsoring churches had similar challenges. So we are having continuously to adapt and find new ways of engaging with supporters, with partners, with communities and with each other.
How do you see the added value of ecumenical relations in the current situation? Does the "ecumenical family" become more important to your organization than ever?
Mukwashi: Ecumenical cooperation is critical particularly in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. It is only through working together that we can scale up much-needed humanitarian and development work. There is power in a praying community. As a family of people of faith, the ecumenical family is very important if we are to rise up to the challenges that have been further exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the issues of racial injustice. Perhaps now more than ever, we must find strength in each other, come together in prayer, solidarity and action for change.
Coping with the Coronavirus - WCC landing page