It appears that in many communities across the globe, COVID-19 has brought out the best in people. There are many examples where individuals, groups, and communities have come together to aid and assist others. With many people self-isolating, especially seniors, it is apparent that the words “social distancing” doesn’t always feel like an appropriate phrase to use. “Physical distancing” seems to be a better term, as many people feel less socially isolated than they have for years, all due to neighbors, friends, and communities ensuring they are not alone and instead feel supported and cared for.
We have curated six examples of how people have aided others around the world during COVID-19. For each example identified, we provided a complete description of what was, or still is, being done. Some examples have multiple offshoots. For example, when we focused on the United Kingdom under one header, we actually provided two examples of how people/communities are aiding others during COVID-19. For the example titled NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization) in Romania, we presented four examples of how community organizations are helping others.
- With a cadre of 70,000 volunteers ready to assist others in need, the Red Cross in the Netherlands leads a group called Ready2Help. **Note: as of the writing of this report, the number of volunteers has increased to 85,768. This speaks to the willingness of so many people to help others during this crisis.
- With COVID-19 hitting the Netherlands, the Red Cross mobilized this network of civil relief workers (Ready2Help), as it was created for situations exactly like this pandemic.
- Throughout the Netherlands, these civil relief workers take daily action for the most vulnerable people. They visit people who are in home isolation or who belong to the at-risk group to ask how they are doing and to offer help with tasks like shopping, and they will also help patients in special care hotels and hospitals to relieve the burden on the nursing staff.
- The Red Cross makes it easy for people to volunteer to be a civil relief worker by offering this easy sign up.
- Norwegians have set up a platform called Wemunity, where people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be of assistance in keeping up critical societal functions.
- This simple question: “Can the recovered and immune citizens keep up important societal functions and shield the vulnerable during a pandemic?” was posted on social media. This triggered the Wemunity project. Now more than 300 resourceful people from the Norwegian technology scene mobilized to answer it, using open innovation methodologies. After a few weeks of research, The Wemunity Project was initiated.
- From the website: “[t]he core idea is simple: As a crisis strikes, solidarity awakens. In emergency situations we need to collaborate seamlessly across both organizational borders and across public sector and civic society. Wemunity is designed to be a recruitment system where ordinary citizens with specific skills and capabilities can be mobilized. An approval step ensures that the information is correct. Structured data on the approved helpers and their capabilities can be shared across those in lead of the local emergency strategy.”
- Wemunity is considered a societal response system not an app. Wemunity uses technological tools to enable a new strategic approach. It is considered “a digital field infrastructure” that can be adapted remotely and parachuted over a given area from the cloud. It serves the purpose of connecting the sphere of organized relief operations with the energy of local, usually unorganized communities.
- Wemunity will run its first pilot in Norway, but what they are building, in theory, could be made to work anywhere. “As people are gradually checked out of the danger zone, they can be checked into the network of helpers and put to work in a strategic way, given the challenges at hand.”
- “The project was initiated by New & company and Deloitte Digital. It is currently supported by people from Sanity.io, Norce, Nyby, Nabohjelp, Netlife, Knowit, and Shortcut. They are also receiving great support from the people at Slack and Airtable.“
- If this project is of interest, the contact is Anders Waage Nilsen who can be reached at + 47 918 14 356, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through LinkedIn.
NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization) in Romania
- NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) in Romania are helping buy COVID-19 testing tools and medical equipment, and many associations are crowdfunding to help hospitals, the sick, and poor.
- “The Daruieste Viata Association funneled all funds it raised in March from text message (SMS) donations into the acquisition of protection equipment, materials, and medical equipment for local infectious disease and emergency hospitals.”
- “Red Cross Romania started an emergency fund called #RomaniaSalveazaRomania (Romania saves Romania). Everyone can participate by texting 8825 — for EUR2. More information about donations are available on their official website. “
- “Save the Children Romania opened an emergency fund for the immediate support of the medical system, with a focus on the emergency care sections for children, maternity and newborn intensive care units.”
- The Zi de Bine Association, curator of social causes, has asked this: “What if every man got involved and donated to the hospital in city or town where he was born or lives now, doing something that gives him meaning, something that will help at this point so unusual but that will remain for the benefit of all community for the years to come? The creative concept of the initial campaign: Who is born in April, May, June transformed to: Who is born in Petroşani, Sinaia, Rădăuți, Craiova, Buzau, Suceava, Campulung, Bucharest, Brașov or Targu Mureș.”
Young People in India
- The younger generational cohort in India, have self-organized to provide aid packages for “daily wagers”. These are people without savings or stores, who completely rely on cash flow that has now been cut off because of the virus. They have stated that “[a]s a young generation of Indians, we need to stand together and do our civil duty and provide for the lesser privileged in our society.”
- “The Safa Society is facilitating this for these young people by collecting funds to prepare relief packages that will be distributed across four targeted cities.”
- According to Rubina Nafees, the founder of SAFA Society, “We have already completed phase 1 of our crowdfunding, in which we raised Rs 28 lakh, and have started the distribution among 4,000 families across the four cities.” Among the celebrities that have joined SAFA’s campaign is tennis player Sania Mirza. Her tweet can be viewed below.
- Our Democracy, an Indian crowdfunding platform, “is also being used by young people to assist the Delhi Youth Welfare Association to raise Rs 20 lakh for daily-wagers in the national capital.”
- HospitalHero connects healthcare workers in the United States who simply do not have the time to meet their own needs with people who can offer meals and accommodation. “It was co-founded by Keith Weissglass of Oakland and Andrew Cantino of San Francisco after witnessing how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on healthcare workers across the country.”
- HospitalHero was built by a team of volunteers through COVID Accelerator, a project of Impossible Labs.
- In a nutshell, healthcare workers make requests for meals, supplies, or anything else they might need. They then share a link with their friends and family. Volunteers offer their support to local doctors, nurses, and hospital workers. They are in the driver’s seat and choose who and how to help.
- According to Keith Weissglass, “When we launched HospitalHero, we were worried we would have too few volunteers to meet the need. Instead, we were overwhelmed by how many people raised their hands to help nationwide. These small acts of service can mean a lot to the doctors, nurses, and other hospital heroes who are making the real sacrifices to keep us safe.”
- It should be noted that on their homepage, they have thanked their volunteers for helping care for America’s hospital heroes during the early days of COVID-19. They go on to note this: “Now that requests from healthcare workers have decreased, we’ve concluded this project.” We are assuming that this program has now ceased.
United Kingdom: Mutual Aid Groups & Drug Runners
- Thousands of mutual aid groups In the UK have been picking up shopping and prescriptions, installing digital equipment for elderly people and setting up telephone friendship teams. “Now, the Covid Mutual Aid UK website lists 3,477 local groups in the UK, though the grassroots nature makes it difficult to count them accurately. Some are small, street level groups with a handful of members, and others are massive — the Lewisham group now has 6,041 members on Facebook, though that’s broken down further into smaller, local WhatsApp groups.”
- In the southwest of England in the city of Bristol, a mothers’ running group have cheekily named themselves “drug runners”. “COVID-19 canceled their regular running group, so they are keeping active by delivering medicines from chemists’ shops to people who can’t leave their homes.”
- According to Mel Bound the founder of the running group, “[w]e had a bunch of women who were desperate to stay active. The floodgates opened on Facebook and the response was unbelievable. Within two days, we had it set up.” Bound was spurred into action when she discovered that “overstretched local pharmacies were struggling to ship prescriptions out to elderly and vulnerable patients.”