COVID-19 Information and 2020-21 Program Updates


August 2020

As friends and followers of PiLA know, we made the decision in March 2020 to suspend the 2019-20 program and ask Fellows to return home, though a few were able to continue to serve their partner organizations remotely. After a delayed placement period, we are happy to be proceeding with a small group of new PiLA Fellows for the 2020-21 cycle, all beginning their work remotely. We are planning a standard fall application schedule for the 2021-22 program, but just as the 2020-21 PiLA Fellows are starting their placements remotely, it is possible that 2021-22 placements will be partly remote. The specifics of the 2021-22 fellowship program will depend on global and regional travel, health, and security conditions next year. No matter the shape and realities of forthcoming PiLA placements, we are confident in our Fellows’ ability to provide valuable support and in our partners’ ability to offer a meaningful service experience as well as opportunities to contribute to social change and to recovery from the economic and public health challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19  pandemic.

The numbers of potential PiLA placements (and finalists for those placements) have not yet been defined, as we and our valued partner organizations are operating under multiple uncertainties. Program selectivity rates may be higher this year than in previous years due to increased demand as well as placement uncertainties. New applicants should understand that now, as in previous years, applying for a PiLA fellowship means applying for the opportunity to be considered for various placements, and not applying for any one position or organization.

Through the pandemic and its challenges, we remain committed to searching for the best fellowship experiences we can offer to the talented young professionals that continue to expand the PiLA family as we move toward twenty years of PiLA placements.

The PiLA Team





June 2020

PiLA continues to regard the health and safety of our Fellows as our foremost responsibility. Due to repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic including ongoing health concerns and travel restrictions in much of Latin American and the Caribbean, PiLA has decided to suspend in-country placements for 2020-21 but will plan for a resumption, conditions permitting, for 2021-22.

Though some of our partner organizations have canceled placements, several will be able to accept PiLA Fellows that have the capacity to work remotely from their residences in the US or Canada. A remote fellowship assumes the same professionalism and commitment to excellence and remote Fellows will report periodically and be in communication with the PiLA Team throughout the year as has been expected for the preceding 17 years.

All finalists for 2020-21 will have the option to defer finalist status to be considered within the applicant pool for placements beginning in summer 2021. We would like to thank our finalists for their patience and understanding and for their commitment to improving lives, living conditions, and the environment in Latin America.

We appreciate the support of our alumni, partners, and friends during this period of global crisis and we look forward to the time when our Fellows can once again be present in Latin America to engage with the communities we value so much.

The PiLA Team





March 23, 2020

Dear PiLA Family:

It is with heavy hearts that the Board of Directors of Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) informs you of its decision to cancel fellowship programming for 2019/20.  Most of our fellows were scheduled to conclude their fellowships in May through August 2020, but, effective March 30, their fellowship programs will conclude, months earlier than we hoped. (See here the message that was sent out to our fellows on March 18 last.) The guidance from public health officials, the US government and governments across Latin America, as well as Princeton University, a source on which we have relied for leadership and as a guidepost in our decision-making, was just too overwhelming for us to continue.  The safety and well-being of our fellows has always been PiLA’s number one priority.  The uncertainty about our fellows’ ability to continue to serve in their posts amid this developing global health crisis led the Board of Directors to take the unprecedented step of calling each one of them home and cancelling the 2019/2020 program.

The Board continues to communicate on a regular basis, monitoring developments as we consider the viability of placing a new cohort of fellows in the field across Latin America for the next fellowship cycle (2020/21).  We will continue to communicate with our candidates, our partners and the broader PiLA family as we consider this important decision.

It is our sincere hope that PiLA will weather this storm, whether it is a short-term hiatus or a longer pause in our programming. We strive to come out on the other end of this ordeal as a stronger organization, even more committed to the fulfillment of our vision, to “provide young men and women with service experiences in Latin America and the Caribbean that  builds in them the skills, character, and compassion necessary to serve as tomorrow’s global leaders.”

PiLA has provided extraordinary leadership experiences for over 400 fellows in our nearly 20-year history, many of whom are now on the front lines of this crisis, working in positions of public health. Meghan Prin, Princeton ’06, writes: 

“I worked with PiLA as a medical student, and my summer internship with Child Family Health International in Ecuador was essential to launching my career in global health. Since 2007, I have completed my medical training and am now an Anesthesiologist and ICU doctor. I have spent 3 of the last ten years living and working in Sub-Saharan Africa (Ghana, Malawi) to improve surgical systems in low-resource settings. PiLA helped to stoke the flames of this passion for global health, gave me the field experience necessary to compete for grants, and opened up my eyes to the realities of healthcare worldwide. It was an honor to work with you all!”

That is just one example, representative of the hundreds of such stories that can be told of the results of the PiLA program, one for which we have all worked so hard for so many years. In that spirit we reach out to you in our hour of need: whatever support you can provide would be not only welcome but vital, in light of our possibly having to cover a (hopefully temporary) dip in our revenue as a result of some postponement of our normal programming process. Simply go to our website,, and click on “donate,” it only takes a few minutes.

Thank you!

David Atkinson, Chairman of the Board


  1. Princeton University COVID-19/Coronavirus Information Page
  2. Princeton University letter to campus community from President Eisgruber (3-03-20)
  3. CDC Guidance for Student Foreign Travel for Institutions of Higher Education (3-01-20)
  4. U.S. Department of State Coronavirus Alert Page
  5. Global Health Security Index
  6. World Health Organization daily coronavirus situation reports 
  7. article: “Impact of the Coronavirus on Campus and Study Abroad – Information for College Parents” (3-01-20)

PILA Emails to Fellows: