COVID-19 Updates

WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER.

Travel in response to COVID-19 continues to evolve with time. Dragons is closely monitoring the situation around the globe, following the advice of public health experts, and making decisions with the best interests of our participants, staff, and global community partners at the forefront of every conversation. Give us a call to discuss any additional questions you may have: 303.413.0822.


A RESPONSIBLE AND INTENTIONAL RETURN TO TRAVEL

Dragons returned to in-person programming on our North America based Gap Semesters in Fall 2020 and after a year without international travel, Dragons successfully re-started our international courses in Bolivia, Peru, Senegal, and Guatemala in Summer 2021. In addition to those destinations, Dragons is now back to our normal program offerings in Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Morocco. Although there has been heavy demand for programming, we have followed our travel mantra to go slow and mindfully as we navigate the many considerations of programming amidst a pandemic. This intentional approach has allowed us to develop, hone, and implement our COVID safe travel practices with the best interests of our staff, participants, and communities at center. Over these past two years, Dragons has been a leader in developing industry wide pandemic best practices, advised schools on COVID mitigation strategies, and collaborated with partner organizations to offer modified programming.

In 2022, we have generally been encouraged by the combination of targeted preventative measures, vaccination campaigns, and broader immunity. Globally, travel restrictions have softened and countries are reopening their borders to travelers once again, particularly with proof of vaccination. We are not fully out of the woods yet, but we believe we are headed in the right direction for a lasting return to safe and responsible travel. For more on our process of reopening programs, please read this more in-depth blog post recounting our return to travel.


ACCOUNTABILITY TO OUR GLOBAL COMMUNITY

COMMUNITY RELIEF FUND

Many of the global communities and nonprofits that have made Dragons programs possible over the past 30 years have been hit especially hard by COVID-19. In response, the Dragons Funda nonprofit 501c3 and our nonprofit partner organizationcreated the Community Relief Fund.

The Community Relief Fund provides direct support to our in-country partners who are particularly vulnerable. The fund has raised more than $35,000 which has been distributed through small grants, mostly aimed at providing food and essential supplies (like PPE) to households. Learn more about the Community Relief Fund.

Photo: Connecting with homestay mothers in Tiquipaya, Bolivia.


FAQs: DRAGONS AND COVID-19

HOW IS DRAGONS RESPONDING TO COVID-19?

We are consulting regularly with our risk management team, regional staff, and a variety of global health experts and organizations including the WHO, CDC, and our partner in managing student health and safety, International SOS. In addition, Dragons is in touch with peer organizations in order to share information and work collaboratively in the interest of our participants and partner communities. We have developed an in-field management and response plan and trained our staff to risk factors, prevention measures, and response protocols. As travel restrictions lift and conditions improve, we continue to engage programming that takes into account COVID-19 considerations. By using a combination of testing, prevention practices, and intentional itinerary design we’ve been able to successfully run high quality and safe programming even amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic.

Beginning in July 2021, Dragons successfully resumed our international programming. We now have resumed program offerings in Bolivia, Peru, Senegal, Guatemala, Nepal, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Morocco. We continue to monitor vaccine distribution, public health interventions, and travel restrictions as they evolve in different regions globally. We know that our participants, instructors, and in-country partners are eager to return to in-person programs wherever safety conditions permit. For more on country specific assessments, see our Considerations for Traveling Internationally in 2022 blog post.

HOW WILL COVID IMPACT MY EXPERIENCE ON A DRAGONS PROGRAM?

We hope not much at all! Besides common sense health practices and occasional testing, our goal is for COVID to fade into the background of your experience and not be a primary part of your story. We have done the hard work of planning and preparation for a variety of scenarios so that you can be present and enjoy your travels responsibly. We are now able to plan our itineraries with very minimal changes to your experience, so you can expect the same quality Dragons program now as always. Homestays, language immersion, community engagement, and other Program Components are all being offered on our programs. Want to learn more about what it’s like to travel right now? Check out our Yak Board for real stories and reflections directly from students currently traveling with Dragons.

HOW DO YOU MITIGATE COVID RELATED RISKS ON PROGRAM?

Each Dragons participant agrees to adhere to our COVID Participant Agreement which outlines preventative measures taken prior to and during the program. These measures are by now familiar to us all and include the common sense health practices to prevent COVID and any illness, for that matter. Daily health check-ins, masking in indoor public spaces, and good hygiene rituals are some of the simple daily interventions we take, none of which limit our group activities or community engagement. In addition, we conduct testing throughout the program, particularly before entering a community, in order to prevent risks to those around us. In our experience, COVID is often a much greater risk to the communities we visit rather than our students and as such, our in-field practices are also designed to ensure safe and informed interactions with local contacts. Prior to our arrival, our team has also conducted COVID country assessments which include knowing the current conditions on the ground, contingency planning for each step of the itinerary, and a review of available medical resources in-country.

HOW HAS DRAGONS DECIDED WHICH PROGRAMS TO RUN?

We have been actively assessing programming feasibility on two primary areas in which we need to feel high confidence before committing to an international program under current circumstances:

  1. International Travel Country specific travel restrictions need to be relaxed and more predictable. This includes things like travel advisories, country entry requirements, flight availability, quarantine upon arrival, etc.
  2. Host Country Conditions We cannot offer programs if mandatory shelter in-place type policies are in effect in the areas in which we travel. We need to have general freedom of movement & association in order to facilitate an interactive and engaging experience, as well as minimize the risks to host communities and our students. Host country conditions are being assessed on a place-by-place basis.

The above is a very simplified summary of some of the key country factors we consider in our assessment process. In each of these areas, we give foremost consideration to the safety of our students and in-country partners, as well as the impacts on the overall quality of the experience. In addition, we consider other program modifications and alternatives in order to adhere to public health best practices in the places we travel. Student and community safety are always our top priorities and we would not hesitate to modify or cancel upcoming programs should it ever appear that health and well-being could not adequately be ensured, or if travel restrictions inhibited us from delivering a high-quality program experience. 

SHOULD WE CONSIDER TRAVELING IN THIS NEW REALITY?

Dragons core mission is to foster face-to-face human connection, which feels more necessary now than ever. As borders open and restrictions relax, we want to acknowledge that travel will continue to have inherent risks and the decision whether to travel remains a very personal one. In a world increasingly eager to shut itself off from one another we fear that the pandemic may be another catalyst for increasing divisions and our fear of the less known. We hope that this trend will abate and that we can continue to build bridges and greater understanding between cultures. Ultimately, it’s not a question of if this global health crisis will pass, but rather when. And once it does, the need for an immersive and empathetic global education will be greater than ever.

WHAT IS DRAGONS VACCINE POLICY?

Dragons requires all program participants to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to provide proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine prior to the start of a program. You can read the full policy here.

WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DRAGONS AND COVID-19?

If you would like more information related to COVID-19, some of the best online resources can be found on the websites of the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For more information about Dragons and our approach to COVID-19 (or anything else for that matter) please do not hesitate to contact our office at 303-413-0822 or send us an email. We’re always happy to help in any way we can.


Safety & Health