Amid the constant COVID-19 headlines of the past few weeks, there’s also been a small, merciful handful of feelgood news stories. Like the two little girls from Australia who pooled their allowance to buy toilet paper so they could deliver it to neighbors in need, and the shopkeepers in Scotland who put together hundreds of care packages comprising hand sanitizer, masks, and cleaning wipes for the people in their community most likely to be affected.
But there’s plenty that we can all do to help members of our own community who are elderly, disabled, or have medical conditions, and we don’t need to have our own vault of Charmin or Purell to do so.
Check in with your neighbors and offer your assistance.
In the U.K., mutual aid groups are being established and organized via Facebook and WhatsApp by volunteers, offering both practical and emotional support to people in their areas who are elderly, disabled, or self-isolating. Similarly, communities in apartment buildings are coming together to ensure that elderly, disabled, and otherwise vulnerable residents are getting the groceries and medication that they need. This block in Lausanne, Switzerland, for instance, set up an errand-running system:
Signs posted in our apartment building — “stronger together.” People have written their names and numbers below to say they’ll run errands for elderly and at risk neighbors. pic.twitter.com/s3LIBnrb3U
The residents of a street in Ripon, a town in Yorkshire, England, have implemented a simple, but effective system for alerting neighbors when someone needs help. Elderly residents are placing green and red cards in their windows; a green card means everything is fine, while a red card means they’re in need of transport, medication, food, or some other kind of help.
Some critics have pointed out that this advertises particularly vulnerable properties, however, and that people should stick to phones. Fortunately, the last week has brought a proliferation of #ViralKindness cards. Designed by Becky Wass, they’re a simple way of reaching out to neighbors who are social distancing, offering an empathetic (remote) ear as well as help with groceries and errands.
Becky my wonderful wife came up with a great idea last night, and it’s already going viral. Wash your hands, print this, fill it out and pop it in your neighbour’s letterbox. Simples. #viralkindness #COVID_19uk #coronavirusuk https://t.co/wnxVhvk742 pic.twitter.com/tnVQMIiSMI
Communicate and pool resources when it comes to filling in gaps in needs.
Anticipating the closure of schools and business, Jessica began to organize with the PTO president at her children’s school to identify possible pain points, such as families needing help with transportation, connectivity, childcare, remote learning, and access to meals. Communicating closely with the school principal (and encouraging Somali and Homng refugee families to check in with their support systems, such as mosques), a group of other parents set up a volunteer platform on SignUp.com to start addressing the needs that weren’t being met.
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“We’re trying to figure out needs that we had assumed would be covered by the state, city, or school district but are not yet happening,” Jessica says. “For example, our high school is getting calls from students asking for the most heartbreaking list of items: diapers and formula (for their own children and for younger siblings), tampons, nonperishable food, soap. I’m currently trying to figure out if we need to develop a short-term solution whereby the high school can set up bins out front (since the school is closed) and people can be directed to drop items in the various bins, and then we can organize volunteers to take those items to the homes that need them, given that a lot of the kids calling in say they don’t have transportation.”
“One of the biggest challenges is figuring out childcare,” she continues. “When people have to go to work, and only emergency personnel are getting childcare from the state, what happens? Is it safe to pair families up to trade childcare, from a virus perspective or from a child safety perspective? There is so much that we don’t know, and are flying blind about.”
Right now, a clear and comprehensive set of guidelines or measures from governments are unforthcoming in a number of countries, and so it is left to communities to do their best.
“Visit” people who are in isolation.
While quarantine prevents us from just dropping by and going into other people’s homes, you can still make sure that people who are self-isolating don’t feel cut off from the rest of the world. The Viral Kindness cards are one way to let people know they’re not alone, but another is to pay them a visit—albeit from afar. Like this family, who showed up to wish their grandmother a happy 95th birthday, from a safe distance across the lawn.
Maybe even think about visiting people you don’t know, who might not have family nearby. That’s what Dana from Anderson, Indiana did. “My girls and I went to a local nursing home and went window to window, while a friend on staff opened the blinds for the residents so we could wave to them and hold up the hearts we’d colored. She said some of them thought we were family.”
We visited a local nursing home this morning, and greeted residents through the windows. Best thing we’ve done since we started social distancing. Worth the wet shoes. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Vur7J12oiU
Donate to food banks and charities.
A number of restaurants and other companies are doing their part to ensure that people don’t go hungry by donating food that might otherwise go to waste as people withdraw into their homes. CBG Ltd., a food supplier in the North of England, put out a notice that it would be making 250 loaves of bread and 250 bottles of milk available for free at one of its sites, stating a policy of one per household, and clarifying that they would prefer the items go to families and the elderly.
Chef Alex Claridge from Birmingham, England has been cooking surplus supplies from a number of local restaurants into delicious meals, and distributing them to people experiencing homelessness alongside the charity SIFA. (And while not a donation per se, London-based Bar Douro is selling a selection of wines with a portion of profits going to support hospitality workers whose livelihoods have been threatened over the last few weeks.)
Want to help? Click here to find your local food bank in the United States.
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