Professional Development
Volunteering During COVID
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By: Xiaofan Gao
Jul 31, 2020 • 10 min read

Volunteering During COVID

I don’t know about you, but volunteering is definitely one of my favorite ways to spend my time. Dedicating time, sweat, and tears to helping people in whatever areas of life they require assistance with never fails to fill me with a fuzzy feeling. It’s not just the fact that you did something good but also that you did it knowing you wouldn’t receive anything in return. If you’ve volunteered before, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I urge you to give it a try, especially during these times, when volunteering is essential. 

volunteering

Make a Difference 

During this pandemic, many businesses have seen dips in their profits. This led to cutting down expenses as much as possible and even laying off workers. Federal stimulus checks made the rounds to support former and current employees, but even that wasn’t enough. The economy continued on its steep, downward slope. Volunteers are needed more than ever to help on both the corporate and personal sides of society. Of course, the fear of catching the virus has probably held many potential volunteers back from offering their services. Here are some ways you can make a difference while staying safe from COVID.

Assist the Elderly

Why?

 The immune systems of the elderly, on average, are more vulnerable than most. Every time they step outside their place of residence, they are putting themselves at risk of getting sick. Sure, you could argue that people do give the elderly a wide berth, but what are the odds that every single person can always maintain social distancing with them? Also, studies show that you can possibly contract the virus from surfaces that have been infected with it, meaning that elderly people could catch it from pushing a cart or grabbing a can of food. Due to all these potential risks, the elderly have resorted to staying at home. This is where you come in.

How?

Go online and look for senior centers or nursing homes in your or a nearby town. Chances are that they’ll be looking for donations, whether it be packaged food, drinks, and protective equipment, like masks and gloves. Encourage family members, friends, and coworkers to do the same. Every little bit counts. There are also nonprofits like Meals on Wheels, which, according to NBC News, has provided over 450,000 meals to 18,000 elderly folk in New York! Support these fantastic causes by donating here if feasible. You can also email these nonprofits and ask if there are any alternative ways you can help. In fact, you don’t even need to ask them how you can help. Be proactive!

Design

Another great way to spread awareness is to create graphics and images.  Just learn a little bit about digital marketing tools, like Canva and Adobe Photoshop, and you can create social media graphics urging people to donate and repost. 

Join a Mutual Aid Group

Why?

What makes a mutual aid group so different from other forms of relief? It is that it’s for the people, by the people. Or, as the Mutual Aid Disaster Relief website puts it, “it isn’t a handout from some top-down entity, nor someone’s paid employment. It embodies a spirit of empathy, generosity, and dignity.” By joining a mutual aid group, you are promising to the entire community that you, an individual, not a corporation, not the government, will help them no matter what. Another nice thing about mutual aid groups is the variety of ways you can help: delivering groceries and medicine to those who are at high risk for COVID, building websites, and checking in on people who are stuck inside or feeling lonely. There’s bound to be something you can do!

volunteering

How?

Sign up here. Don’t be deterred by the sheer number of groups there are. Use the search bar at the top to filter out the ones you can’t join due to location. Once you see all the groups available, you can open each one of them to find out the next steps. For instance, after opening the Watertown, MA mutual aid network tab, I am led to a Google Doc that tells me to share my information with the Community Coordinator. This is so that they can pair me up with a neighbor that needs aid. In other cases, like with the Boston COVID Grief Network, you’ll be redirected to a site where you can find further instructions. One thing to keep in mind is once you let them know you’re up for volunteering, you must stick to your word. It’s frustrating when people spend time reviewing applications, setting you up with a person in need, and getting back to you only to find out that you’ve ditched. 

Provide Mental Health Help 

Why?

Many people are feeling anxious and miserable for different reasons. There are some groups who feel like they’re going crazy from being cooped up for so long. Some may be stuck with family members or friends that they always argue and bicker with. This can create a very hostile living environment.  Others might be really stressed financially. If they don’t go back to work, they can’t make enough money to support themselves. Whatever the reason may be, people are bound to have more negative thoughts and feelings during these times. If not checked, they can lead to anxiety attacks, depression, and even suicide. According to Julie Cerel, a licensed clinical psychologist and a past president of the American Association of Suicidology, the pandemic could lead to additional 75,000 deaths of despair. Thus, providing mental health support is of the utmost importance. 

How?

Reach out to mental health helplines that have a shortage of open positions for people like you. I know the Crisis Text Line is looking for more volunteers who can answer texts from people going through a crisis, due to the recent surge in users who are worried about COVID. If you go on The American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA) website, you can see that they provide a ton of ways you can volunteer with mental health help, the top two being signing up to be a part of the Suicide Prevention Line and American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health. At the bottom are two other great opportunities. Give an Hour and Support the Front, which offers explicitly free, virtual support groups for professionals on the front line. 

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