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• Jun 17, 2020

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COVID-19 threatens the well-being and lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations

All around the world, tens of millions have been forced from their homes, from their countries of origin, and from the towns and cities where they proudly watched their children grow.

These families now live packed together, in the close confines of camps or live elsewhere, worrying about their next meal, about the safety of their children, and if they will ever see home again.

The more than 25 million people living in these conditions of constant uncertainty, away from their native countries, are more commonly referred to as refugees. And there are an additional 45 million displaced within their home countries as well.

But in a time where COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, organizations like Refugees International become even more crucial.

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Refugees International, a TD Bank customer and Washington, D.C. nonprofit, advocates fiercely for the rights of refugees and other populations who are forcibly displaced from their homes because of conflict, natural disasters, persecution or other tragic circumstances.

Refugees International President Eric Schwartz says that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of nonprofits has never been more important.

" The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable people—in our own country and around the world," Eric said. "Refugees and others who are forcibly displaced suffer disproportionately in situations like this. They live in camps with crowded conditions with no access to adequate medical care, or in urban or rural areas and have little or no access to services. At Refugees International, we report to the U.S. Congress, the media, the United Nations and others to fiercely advocate for the rights and well-being of those communities.”

And at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens displaced communities around the world, Eric says, his vital nonprofit “is more active and engaged than ever.”

"Nothing is normal right now because of COVID-19," he said. "We are doing what we can to gather information from our sources around the world. And unfortunately, we are seeing that the most dramatic impacts for refugees amid the pandemic are likely yet to come."

Eric says that impacts could be particularly dire.

"For one, in some of these countries, due to conflict, the institutions that would normally respond to a health crisis are currently non-existent," he explained. “And even where such health services exist, refugees and internally displaced people often have very limited access.”

How do you support those helping the helpless?

With a far more uncertain funding environment amid COVID-19, Eric said Refugees International's successful PPP loan, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, was vital for the organization and its employees. He praised TD Bank’s efforts at this particularly challenging time.

"Everyone who's working now is under significant stresses, professionally and personally," he added.

With all this stress and pressure, "acts of decency" become that much more significant, Eric said. And that's the kind of service Refugees International got from TD Bank and Senior Relationship Manager John Tucker.

"I didn’t know John before this experience and I expect he figured he was just doing his job," Eric said. "But in highly stressful circumstances, connecting with a bank and a representative who answered emails and phone messages promptly, who was comfortable with me checking back with him by phone and email continually and who provided critical resources … just doing one’s job is, well, extraordinary."

For John, the honor was all his.

"Refugees International is a wonderful organization with an incredible mission," John said. "I'm just fortunate to work at a financial institution that sees value in more than dollars and is willing to step forward in challenging times. I have first-hand experience with how essential the Paycheck Protection Program can be in the daily lives of its recipients.

"It is certainly an experience I will never forget," John added.

One example of how John went above and beyond was making sure to respond immediately to Eric when he had questions about the application.

"He would call me right back to respond to any questions I had and coach me through everything. A problem that could have occupied two or three days of major worry for me, he helped me solve right away," he added.

Eric added that John even contacted him in circumstances where he hadn’t reached out.

"Quite simply, you did us a good deed in a major time of need, and it won't soon be forgotten."

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