The world has rapidly changed since even one week ago at the time of this writing. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a pandemic. Travel restrictions and border closures are in effect, and social distancing and self-isolation are buzzwords that quickly entered into our collective vernacular owing to COVID-19. Schools are closed and closing, along with public places such as restaurants, gyms. Daily life is narrowing quickly.
Perhaps I speak for myself, but I think many of us are feeling stressed out and helpless. However, this is also a time when we can rise to the occasion and help out if we have time and resources to spare. Even though I’m self-isolated due to a cold, this morning, I started small with an offer to volunteer my writing services to my friends who needed a hand, and so here I am! (I’m the writer who posted What To Know About Wearing a Face Mask On A Plane recently.) You can help too, here are some ways you can pitch in and feel good about making a contribution to your community and the vulnerable people who need help the most. But before you do anything, be sure to follow government and CDC guidelines about hygiene and social interactions so that you don’t end up causing the person you’re trying to help more harm than good.
1. Check on the vulnerable, the disabled and the elderly in your neighborhood. Email them or call them, and if you don’t really know them, leave them a written note. Can you get groceries for them? Or fill prescriptions? Don’t be afraid to gently ask them twice. Sometimes people are reluctant to accept help.
2. Donate to food banks. There are widespread reports of shortages at food banks, so give what you can spare to help the hungry in your community. Also consider donating blood. Bloodworks Northwest, a Seattle-based blood services and research nonprofit in one of areas hardest hit by COVID-19, has said in a statement, “the Pacific Northwest’s blood supply is at risk of collapse in coming days.” Give if you can.
3. Help the healthcare and hospital workers you know. While many of us hole up in our homes with our laptops, nurses, doctors and support staff don’t have this luxury. Maybe you could loan them a second car (if your insurance allows it) that might be sitting in your driveway now that you’re stuck inside, so they don’t have to take public transport. Or do their errands, cook for them, or whatever might help lift their burden in the coming days.
4. Join a formal volunteer group. Where I’m based in Toronto, the medical students at University of Toronto are off school anyway due to the university’s closure, so they organized a support network to help the city’s healthcare front line workers. They’re doing everything from childcare to shopping. A quick browse on my neighborhood Facebook group revealed a call for volunteers to staff a program that helps the elderly, run by one of the city’s top hospitals. Some of these interactions may be currently banned by your city or community so be sure to stay up to date on your local rules and recommendations.
There are many things each of us can do, and not everything has to be a grand gesture. Start with something small, and lend a hand.
Helen Racanelli is a Toronto-based YouTuber. Follow her channel, Shrimpy McGee, for her latest video called I’m Self Isolated For Covid-19 Coronavirus: How I Got Here.
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