FAQs regarding Greenheart’s response to COVID-19

FAQs regarding Greenheart’s response to COVID-19

FAQs regarding Greenheart’s response to COVID-19

We are living in unprecedented times. Never in our lives have we experienced a pandemic of the gravity of COVID-19 impacting the globe so dramatically. As of May 11, 2020, there are more than three million cases, and nearly 270,000 deaths globally.  Because of the rapid spread of the virus and the complications it is causing in health services and airlines, we were forced to act quickly in March–asking participants to make travel arrangements back to their home countries.


Q:  Why did Greenheart proactively decide to ask cultural exchanges participants to return to their home countries immediately? 

A:  The decision to ask all participants to return home, as of March 16, 2020, was made with incredible reluctance by Greenheart’s senior leadership and Board of Directors. Ultimately, the decision came down to one factor: Greenheart is charged, first and foremost, with the health, safety, and welfare of all of our participants, and this is not something we feel we can guarantee for our participants in the foreseeable future, due to the rapid spread and increased severity of the virus in the U.S. 

This was a decision that was made not just based on the situation as it stood in communities around the country, but on the projections and concerns about what things will look like in the weeks and months ahead. We based our decision on the fact that the U.S. is just beginning to grapple with this pandemic outbreak, and that our situation here in the U.S. could look very different, very quickly.  


Q:  What other factors influenced Greenheart’s decision? 

A:  Our concerns include the following: 

  • Potential suspension of air travel, both domestically and internationally, as well as potential airport closures that would limit or eliminate the ability to return to their home countries. 
  • Changing circumstances for participants’ hosts (families, schools and/or organizations), losing a job and not being able to support a participant, someone in the host community catching COVID-19 and being unable to quarantine due to the participants’ presenceare all very real situations that hosts may find themselves in that could affect their ability to support the participant. 
  • An inability to move a participant to a new home/host organization/host family. If there is a situation where a host is unable to continue hosting or housing a participant, for whatever reason, and the participant cannot be placed with a new family or housing and if there are no flights available, the participant would be stuck in limbo, without a place to stay and/or conduct their program. 


Q:  What if I think it’s safer to shelter in place for the short amount of time left on the program? 

A:  We recognize that focusing on safety, and yet asking participants to fly home by traveling through airports and on multiple flights can come across as a mixed message. There IS risk of catching COVID-19 by traveling at this time, and there is a significantly increased risk in the weeks and months ahead. Greenheart is unable to justify keeping participants in the U.S. when the future could be more dire.  

Additionally, remaining in the U.S. on a program is never a permanent solution. Irrespective of when, participants will need to return to their home countries. Greenheart fundamentally believes that the best place for participants to be is with their families and natural support systems during this crisis. 

Q: What if it is considered more dangerous in my home country? 

A:  While this was an incredibly difficult decision, Greenheart’s number one concern is the health, safety, and welfare of our students, coordinators, staff, and families. While this may seem counterintuitive based on the circumstances in the host community as compared to the participant’s home country, this decision was made looking forward. The coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout the world, leading to the shutdown and quarantines of entire cities and regions. While this has only happened regionally in the U.S., the potential spread of this virus and an exponentially larger impact across the country, are the reasons for this decision at this time.  

Q:  Can participants remain in the U.S.? 

A:  Greenheart is asking for all participants to return to their home countries immediately and will not make exceptions unless it is physically impossible for the participant to return home. If a participant stays in the U.S., he/she will need to sign a waiver.  

Q:  How long do we have to book departure flights?

A:  Departure flights should be booked as soon as possible. We anticipate there will be a limited number of flights to your country and potential border and airport closures in some countries, and we are therefore asking for all flights to be booked with urgency so the participants can return home safely. We do not have an exact deadline as there are limited flights available, but please work on getting the first available flight, and upload those details in our online application system as well as send them to your Program Manager. 

Q:  What if I can’t book a flight home/airport is shut down?

A:  Please make your best effort to book a return flight home. If you are not able to book your flight, please send proof of airport shutdown to Greenheart.

Q:  Who is responsible for the cost of early return?  

A:  Greenheart is unable to assist financially in any aspect of booking participant’s return flights. Greenheart also is not able to assist directly in the booking of any flights for participants at this time. 

Q:  What if my country has closed its borders? 

A:  In every country where border closures have been announced so far, all national citizens have been allowed to return home. Please alert Greenheart immediately if this changes in your country. Please contact your embassy or consulate in the U.S. for further guidance. 


If you have program-specific questions, please click here to get in touch with your Greenheart contact. 

If you are a Greenheart Program Participant who was impacted by COVID-19, please read this letter from our CEO, Laura Rose.

For future updates on COVID-19 and Greenheart programs, please visit this post.