For the last two months, the Shansi team has been working to manage the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the people of Oberlin Shansi, on our programs, and on our partners and friends in the United States and Asia. These are trying times, but I am so impressed by the dedication and level of commitment among our Fellows, the Shansi staff and Board, and our partners in Asia.
As we reported to you previously, Oberlin Shansi temporarily suspended programs in China in early February and our three China-based Fellows returned to the United States by mid-February. Since then, we have seen COVID-19 declared a pandemic as it has swept through the United States and our partner countries in Asia. On March 12, the Oberlin Shansi Board of Trustees and staff made the decision that Shansi Fellows from India, Indonesia, and Japan should return to the United States as soon as possible. At the same time, Shansi Visiting Scholars in Oberlin from India and Indonesia were given the opportunity to return home early, and all three chose to depart.
All but four Shansi Fellows are back in the United States. Two Fellows in Japan are not U.S. citizens and have chosen to remain in Japan for the time being. Two other Fellows, in consultation with their families, have made the choice to remain in Asia.
The decision to bring Shansi Fellows home was not easy, not least because we know that this could mean the second-year Fellows have said a premature and rushed goodbye to friends and colleagues, and to the lives they have made for themselves in their Fellowships. We hope the situation improves and they can return to complete their Fellowships, and we will support them however we can until then.
The situation with COVID-19 and government policies in the US and Asia is so fluid that it is impossible to be certain what we will face by summer and fall. As of today, Shansi is planning for current Shansi Fellows to return to their sites as soon as restrictions are eased and governments and public health experts determine it is safe to resume normal activities. We hope the new cohort (those selected this year) can begin their Fellowships as planned with summer intensive language study and arrival on site in late August. However, we are preparing contingency plans to account for possible delays.
As the Shansi team has worked to support Shansi Fellows and Visiting Scholars in these challenging times, we also can’t help but think about our friends and partners in Asia, and their families. Generations of Shansi Fellows, Visiting Scholars, staff, and others have contributed to our enduring relationships across Asia, and I know they share our concerns for the health and safety of everyone we work with in China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the United States, and elsewhere.
- Gavin Tritt, Executive Director, Oberlin Shansi
UPDATE - To learn more about how Shansi Fellows are handling things, visit our YouTube channel to view a video of their testimonials.