human development, social justice and sustainable social systems

Caritas Poland’s response to COVID-19 pandemic

Coordinating the largest aid project in Polish history

In this difficult time of the COVID 19 pandemic, Caritas Poland has coordinated what has become the largest aid project in the history of Poland. Since mid-March 2019, we have gathered 20 million PLN (4,5 million EUR) from private and corporate donors to help in the fight against COVID 19. With the help of 41 Diocesan Caritas, volunteers have been recruited, funds have been raised and campaigns have been launched.

On 9 April, the government increased the restrictions on public movement in an effort to contain further spreading of the virus. Such measures, while necessary, can have a severe impact on the mental health of many of our beneficiaries. A help line has been set up for people to contact a psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapists, and other health specialists when needed. Individual Diocesan Caritas have launched their own initiatives in this regard as well. In the first weeks of the outbreak in March, 220,000 EUR was distributed among local Diocesan Caritas. In April, the board of directors of Caritas Poland approved another 220,000 EUR to be distributed. The money helps the local Caritas coordinate and prepare campaigns and initiatives and strengthens their capacities.

Two main campaigns have been the focus for Caritas Poland during this pandemic. These are #PomocDlaSeniora (#HelpForElderly) and #WdzięczniMedykom (#GratefulToMedics).

#PomocDlaSeniora (#HelpForElderly) – Caritas volunteers deliver food parcels and hygienic and protective items (disinfectant liquids, gloves, masks) to thousands of elderly, homeless, sick and disabled people in need all over Poland every day. Additionally, volunteers support them in activities that require leaving home (e.g. in the purchase of medicines), as well as provide other forms of assistance, depending on their needs, for example, psychological care. The hygiene products are also distributed between Caritas employees and volunteers who pack the packages. Local companies contribute with food donations. Caritas activities are supported by the Territorial Defence Force (military branch of the Polish army) and Municipal Police. The local response activities are coordinated by local Caritas branches, in which diocesan Crisis Management Centres were established. Since 24 March, Caritas Poland has been preparing food baskets twice a week, which are distributed by the Municipal Police in Warsaw among the homeless inhabitants of the city.

#WdzięczniMedykom (#GratefulToMedics) – Caritas Poland is working to raise funds to buy essential equipment for Polish hospitals. The goal of the campaign is to collect 12 million PLN (approx. 2.64 million EUR), out of which 3 million PLN was already collected. Corporate partners joined the campaign financially. In addition, in-kind donations of 8,000 protective masks were provided by an international corporation. The masks have already been sent to hospitals where people with coronavirus are being treated. Diocesan Caritas organise local campaigns to collect funds for equipment, mainly respirators, but also gloves, helmets, masks, aprons, disinfectants and other types of specialised equipment.

Coordinating these two projects is an intensive, and massive, task and we are grateful for all the work and energy of each and every staff member, volunteer and helping hand that has stepped up to assist those in need.