Following an award-winning 20-year run at Procter & Gamble, Edgar Sandoval Sr. had only been the president of World Vision for 18 months when the COVID-19 pandemic presented an unprecedented challenge to the world’s largest relief organization. Sandoval talked with Common Good in June.
You had an iconic career in corporate America. What did it look like for you to bring your faith to bear in that space?
I had a wonderful career at Procter and Gamble. I worked with different people around the world, people of different faiths. As a Christian, you bring your values into your work; they’re part of who you are. One of the things I’m most proud of in my career is the #LikeAGirl campaign for the Always brand. I wanted to do something that not only drove sales but that truly could also change the world for every girl.
My faith teaches that we are all created in God’s image, but the research showed that girls and young women lacked confidence in their God-given value. In 2014, over 79 percent of people in the U.S. would tell you that using the phrase “like a girl” is an insult. After the campaign, that flipped, and now the vast majority see it as a compliment.
Right out of the gate at World Vision, you face a pandemic. How do you even begin to approach that?
At my first staff meeting as president in 2018, I encouraged our staff to unleash their passion for giving witness to Jesus Christ and to have a bias for faith in action. That was the message the Lord put on my heart — and I had no idea how prophetic it would be.
This is probably the most uncertain and concerning situation that World Vision has faced in our 70-year history, but our long history has prepared us for such a time as this. I told the staff, “This is what we do. This is what we’re prepared to do.”
What does that action look like?
In the United States, the very first thing we did was to come alongside health care facilities to provide personal protective equipment — things like masks, gloves, disinfectant — to be provided to low-income families and schools.
Second, we are reaching vulnerable families with what we call family emergency kits: a week’s worth of food, hygiene items, educational supplies.
Third, we’re serving pastors and churches. We put the family emergency kits together, and the pastors distribute them. We are honored to support pastors with their local ministries. We know that pastors and faith leaders can be a force in stopping COVID-19, because they have the position of trust in communities.
This pandemic poses a threat to some of World Vision’s work. How are you combating that?
It’s not just our work – it’s all efforts to fight poverty. The global rate of extreme poverty has been declining since the 1990s. But the virus has the potential to create the first regression in the fight against poverty in our lifetimes. We are prepared to do everything we can to ensure that doesn’t happen. We declared a global emergency response for the first time in our history. That means we’re responding in all of our regions at the same time to the same crisis. And we’re scaling up our response in certain priority countries. We are asking all people everywhere to help us raise the $350 million to curb the effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable where we work.
We have a three-pronged response. The first is preventing the spread of the virus through disseminating messages about preventive behaviors such as handwashing. The second prong is strengthening health systems, providing support for workers and necessary equipment. And finally, we are addressing the secondary effects of the pandemic on children’s health and well-being through programs like providing families with cash and vouchers, making sure no child goes hungry.