Federal Way nonprofit fights coronavirus

A local humanitarian group goes right to the source of the coronavirus. What World Vision is doing in China to curb the outbreak.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — World Vision is fighting to protect the 55,000 children the nonprofit sponsors in China. The Federal Way nonprofit has more than 300 workers already in China. They are focused on prevention and education. World Vision has been working in China since the early 1980s, and the workers live in the communities they serve.

“They’re trusted by the communities. They’re known. It’s not someone they’ve never met before. This person was talking to them last week about education for their children,” explained Erica Van Deren. Van Deren is the senior program manager for the humanitarian response team in Asia and West Africa. She’s coordinating the fight against the coronavirus from her desk in Federal Way. “It’s something that’s extremely personal to us.”

Of the 55,000 children World Vision sponsors in China, 40,000 of them are in the most vulnerable areas for coronavirus.

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The number of people infected with the coronavirus in China is surging as the World Health Organization struggles to gain control.

On Wednesday, China confirmed nearly 45,000 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.

Van Deren is in touch with workers each day. “It’s just a general sense of fear. Can we get what we need to keep our kids safe? Can we as a family stay safe with this virus?”

World Vision says it knows what works best to save lives from prior outbreaks, including Ebola and Zika.

Workers are teaching children and their parents how to wear the masks correctly and giving them lifesaving supplies. The kits include soap, masks for children and adults, and a thermometer.

They are also giving protective gear to health workers so they don’t get sick.

In the next two months, they hope to respond to 390,000 people with protective gear and education.

As the number of coronavirus deaths grows, Van Deren gets an update on World Vision children every day.

“Every day, I get a report. No sponsored children have been effected today, none of their families have been infected and none of our staff are infected,” said Van Deren, who added, “Hallelujah.”