How the Global Pandemic Is Affecting Different Vulnerable Populations

April 5, 2020

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That was fast. The world has suddenly shifted, and we don’t yet know what the outlook will be in our lives…As we’ve watched this global health crisis unfold, we’ve seen a temporary shift in vulnerability to encompass the whole world.

Suddenly, we’ve all become vulnerable (or is it that our vulnerability has become exposed?), and it’s been heart-wrenching to watch the number of ways an invisible enemy like a virus can affect all of humanity.

We’re seeing families here at home move from being financially stable to filing for unemployment basically overnight. Businesses are applying for loans to stay afloat, restaurants are closing, our elderly family members are suddenly at-risk, and so much more…It brings me to tears just thinking about the magnitude of it all. And as I watch our own country and other developed nations struggle, I can’t help but turn my gaze, for a moment, toward all the different at-risk populations, people, and countries with vulnerabilities that pre-existed what we’re battling now.

If we, who are relatively healthy and well cared for, struggle to help ourselves amidst all of this, how can nations or populations already living in the margins survive such a crisis? It’s a question I can’t get out of my head, because the answer could be devastating.

Recently, I’ve touched base with many of the organizations you’ve seen highlighted here on Lovelight stories – whether it be over the phone, by email, or even just a webinar – and they’re concerned too. But they’re also hopeful!

They exist to serve the vulnerable, and they believe they’re fully equipped to do so! They know they’re needed now more than ever, and I’ve heard a resounding echo of courage and hope in knowing their core capabilities. They’re used to fighting on the frontlines and using the tools they’ve been given to do what they’re made to do! Furthermore, they have everything they need through God who is calling them to be the Church and respond as loving followers of Christ.


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In this story, I hope to share a small window into:

  1. How this global pandemic is affecting different vulnerable populations

  2. What organizations are doing to serve them

  3. The role of the Church

My goal is to summarize some of the work and conversations I’m seeing right now in one easy to read story! While you’re likely keeping up with what’s happening around the world, you likely don’t have time to sift through hours of calls and webinars, so I’ve done it for you!


Two more things:

  • Some of this might seem simple or not earth-shatteringly new, but it’s a representation of what’s happening now.

  • Of course, because this crisis is affecting all of us on a global scale in so many ways, I can’t possibly summarize everything that’s taking place, but I hope to start shedding a bit of light on those who may not be the first we think of when we contemplate who this is affecting most.


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1) The global materially poor

We walk alongside the materially poor around the clock, year-round. These are often people who are fighting for education, adequate healthcare, water, food, and shelter – basic needs that are now even more of a challenge to access amidst this virus outbreak. Many simply don’t have a safety net or the option to lose a day’s wage of work. They can’t socially distance, and don’t have access to wash their hands. Being out of school means they’ll fall even farther behind in their education. If they get sick, there isn’t a medical facility nearby to care for them.

In India, people living in populated cities are finding themselves out of work and are migrating back to their villages. This means areas that were previously isolated are now connected through return of migrants – scenarios which have created national restrictions on movement. And while restrictions are important to help curb the spread, they’re making it hard for organizations to operate effectively.


What organizations are doing:

When I think of countries like Haiti, the potential of spread is terrifying, which is why the real weapon against this is prevention. If you’ll notice, the virus is spreading slower in developing countries. This could be due to a lot of factors, including lack of testing, but experts believe it could also be partly due to the drastic precautions many of the countries took very early in the process. For many countries in Africa, they’re used to dealing with disease outbreaks and already have measures in place! For example, it was shared that it’s not uncommon for health screenings to be happening there at airports for all passengers on a regular basis.

Nonprofit organizations are intently focused on what they do best. At Charity: water, it’s providing access to clean water and health training. They’re ramping up their capacity and finding creative ways to continue their work by modifying and adapting the way they work. They are such a critical player in prevention by nature of what they do! Thank you Charity: water.

At Hope International, they’re focused on maintaining operations of their savings groups as best they can. In these groups, community members meet regularly to contribute to their savings group and participate in faith-based training. Through these groups they’re able to save and take out loans to start businesses that support their families. As we’re seeing here in the U.S., finding ways to maintain economic stability is critical, and these savings groups help members do that! They shared that in Malawi before the savings group, people were asked if they’d have the capital needed to weather a crisis and 24% answered “yes”. After the program, 80% said they could weather a crisis – and that crisis is actually taking place now. Thank goodness for those savings groups! Before you move on – Here’s an EXCELLENT 3-minute video of HOPE’s President & CEO, Peter Greer, sharing their response to the virus.


“This is a moment that reminds us of why we exist: because crises like this hit the most vulnerable families the hardest. The changes we’re feeling now will impact men and women living in poverty for months or even years to come.”  – Peter Greer, President & CEO, HOPE International


The 410 Bridge is actively monitoring their communities in Kenya, Guatemala, and Haiti. In fact, they’re implementing country-specific measures to help communities stay afloat in the areas they work and are releasing weekly video updates from their Executive Director, Kurt Kandler, here! In Haiti specifically, they’re working to deliver 30-day food kits and school lessons to families where possible. They’re also actively working to spread awareness of how to stay healthy and what to do if anyone should fall ill in their community.

Side note: Going back to the “Helping Without Hurting” model we continue to study, giving hand-outs is appropriate right now, as they’re in the midst of a true crisis.


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**Quick disclaimer! The following information came from general insights I gleaned from a Wheaton College online summit discussing the effects of the pandemic on different populations. These statements do not represent Wheaton and are my own interpretation of the information shared, as a way to share insight into what different populations are facing right now.**


2) The elderly

Outside of the fact the elderly are at a greater risk of complications from the virus, they’re also at a greater risk for loneliness and suicide under normal conditions. When social isolation measures are added to the mix there is significant concern this will increase. Also, being lonely is linked to a lower immune system. Regular meal deliveries and senior services have been challenged, but adaptations are starting to be made!


Creative solutions experts say are good ways to help:

  • Some centers are giving seniors iPads, so they can connect with people!

  • Home delivered meal services are dropping off meals at the door, stepping away and staying present to say hello when they open the door as a way to connect!

  • We can call or video an elderly person we know to reminisce with them about their life, ask questions about special moments, pray with them, play games, read a book, etc.

  • Oh, and this touched my heart: We can learn from the wisdom of the elderly! They’ve lived a full life, and have likely lived through a crisis.


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3) Immigrants + Refugees

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program has been suspended until later this month, which means refugees are no-longer coming into our country. The border is closed to non-essential travel, and asylum seekers are being turned away and sent to Mexico. Inside detention centers, it’s very difficult to practice social distancing. Immigrants and refugees are in fear of losing their jobs, and of course, those who are undocumented will not receive a government stimulus check like American citizens.


What organizations are doing:

  • Nonprofit organizations that serve immigrants and refugees are advocating on their behalf for policies that can help protect them.

  • They’re finding ways to help people access food and are connecting them to resources who can help.


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4) Victims of human trafficking

I’d like to start off with this paraphrased statement, which I find to be so eerily profound: At its core, human trafficking is a hidden movement of people. Even though we’re shutting down borders, airports, and countries amidst this virus pandemic, there’s still a whole movement of people that goes unseen everyday…that’s the essence of human trafficking and it’s no different today. Because trafficking hasn’t ceased, it’s critical organizations like International Justice Mission (IJM) can continue conducting rescues and aftercare services during this time.


IJM is fighting the fight:

The President of International Justice Mission, Philip Langford, shared a story about a group of forced labor survivors in India who’ve been through their aftercare program and have started a 1,500 person Released Bondage Labor Association. The same group is now helping the government identify cases of bonded labor and working with law enforcement to mobilize rescue, restoration and aftercare services. In his words, “The rescued are becoming the rescuers!” What’s particularly interesting right now, is that their group is now working to spread prevention messaging about the virus in remote Indian communities!


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The Role of the church

Many of the organizations mentioned above conduct their work through the local church. Faith is the basis of who they are! They rely on God’s sovereign power as they willingly lean-in to situations of pain and sorrow on a regular basis. I believe, now more than ever, our Lord is inviting us to draw nearer to Him in our own lives, and in the redemptive work of walking with the vulnerable around us. After all, we are the Church – called to love Him and love thy neighbor as thy self.


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love. – 1 John 4:18


The above scripture is a loud and clear reminder I’ve been repeating to myself daily. We need not fear, but it’s still hard…Meanwhile, I’ve been so incredibly pained to see and know all the suffering, anxiety, and fear people are experiencing on so many levels around the world. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in my life where I’ve held so much sorrow in my heart for all of humanity, and especially for the precious people these organizations exist to serve all year-round…At the same time, I have immense joy and anticipation in my heart for what God will do with such of a massive amount of pain in suffering. For He is a GOOD God, and His grace and love will prevail! I guess that’s the beauty of the gift of the faith we share – We can have sadness that comes from a deep empathy and love for our neighbors, while also experiencing the unwavering peace and joy that only comes from a loving relationship with our grace-filled Lord. It’s a beautiful gift that comes from knowing our Lord!


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Thankfulness + Prayer

I’m thanking God for the gift of our faith, that we can know and seek His heart now and always in our lives. That we have the ability to receive His wisdom to know how to respond in this moment, and once we do, to then have faith to let Him do the rest. Because of Him, we can rest in His peace amongst a world of chaos. What a gift that truly is.

I’m thankful for the many heroes of this age. Those fighting on the front-lines with nonprofits around the world, but also those who are fighting here at home – medical workers, grocery store clerks, first responders, package deliverers, and so many more who are keeping this country moving. It’s never been more true than now to say, we couldn’t do it without them. 

I’m praying for our families, friends, communities, country, and world. That through this experience we may turn our heads and draw near to Him, growing in our faith and coming to know Him even deeper. That we may have the kind of love that casts out fear, so that we can be present for each other in whatever ways He calls us to. I’m praying that God lays His protection over all the world, especially those who don’t have the means, ability, or infrastructure to effectively combat this pandemic. For they need our love and His protection most.

P.s. We’re all enduring a certain level of vulnerability right now in many different ways…If there’s a way we can pray for you, will you let us know? You can either leave your request in the comments below for us all, or email me directly, and I will be praying with you!

Stephanie Jacobs | Storyteller & Advocate for Social Justice


“Almighty God, may we who are merely inconvenienced, remember those whose lives are at stake.

May we who have no risk factors, remember those most vulnerable.

May we who have the luxury of working from home, remember those who must choose between preserving their health and making their rent.

May we who have the flexibility who care for children when their schools close, remember those who have no options.

May we who have to cancel trips, remember those who have no safe place to go.

May we who are losing our margins money in the tumultuous falling economic markets, remember those who have no margins at all.

May we who settle in for quarantine at home, remember those who have no home.

As fear grips our country, let us choose love.

Through this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other, let us find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbor.


– Shared through WABE radio, NPR

Explore more categories:  Faith Encouragement, Nonprofits, Social Issues

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