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. Constantine Triantafilou is executive director and CEO of International Orthodox Christian Charities, which offers emergency relief and development programs to those in need worldwide, without discrimination, and strengthens the capacity of the Orthodox Church to so respond.
What are the major ways in which you and your staff have had to adapt and/or restructure your work because of COVID-19?
Triantafilou: We are based in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US, and at headquarters we started with a Crisis Response Team that included members of all departments in order to facilitate staff working from home. We have a small core group that comes into the office for critical business activities. We conducted risk assessments for each office and for each of our activities in all departments: finance and administration; operations; and development and communications.
What are the “best practices” that led to you retaining your institutional vision and mission while restructuring your work?
Triantafilou: Above all, we have pledged to stick to our core business activities and experience. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to respond with compassion. One way the International Orthodox Christian Charities is doing this is through a new suite of tools called the Care Compass (iocc.org/carecompass). These tools map ways individuals and communities can forge a path toward physical, mental, and spiritual wellness in any time of crisis—including the current pandemic. Designed in consultation with Orthodox clergy, counselors, and clinicians, the tools are simple to use, adaptable, and can be locally implemented. No matter where you find yourself, together, we can help each other find ways to navigate toward resilience.
What are some signs of hope you have observed along the way?
Triantafilou: We have been extremely blessed by the love, support, and generosity of our donors throughout the crisis—particularly those that came forward early on, offering to cover our unplanned expenses related to COVID-19.
What have been some of your biggest challenges?
Triantafilou: Our development plans include managing over 70 locally organized fundraising events every year. In the pandemic context, we had to quickly pivot and develop ways to shift to virtual events. Additionally, limited travel is putting critical relationship-building trips on hold, as well as some monitoring and evaluation activities. That said, the work continues, and our staff is finding creative solutions in this new reality.
How do you see the added value of ecumenical relations in the current situation?
Triantafilou: Our ecumenical relations continue to add value to the International Orthodox Christian Charities’ work with regard to information sharing, collaboration, and funding. We’re grateful for the strong ecumenical partner relationships we have worldwide.