Is There a Place for Volunteers in the Pandemic Response?

One of the greatest sources of frustration for many of us during this pandemic is feeling like we can’t do anything to help—well, beyond stay home (which is no small thing). Yet, everywhere we turn, high-ranking health officials are telling us that volunteer support is going to be essential to enduring the worst of the outbreak and feeling our way around the weeks, and perhaps months, that will follow as the movement restrictions gradually lift. 

So, how can you volunteer during the pandemic without jeopardizing your health or others’?

Over the last several weeks, a number of civic-minded grassroots groups have sprung up all over the world with the simple aim of offering a helping hand to the many who have been left isolated by the stay-at-home restrictions. StudentsAgainstCorona is one of them. Launched by Fliz von Reiterdank, a medical student, and her brother and their friend on March 17, the platform has since spread to nine countries, with new hubs forming almost every day.

At every turn, the outpouring of support has dwarfed the number of people in need, Fliz von Reiterdank told Forbes earlier this month. The group’s volunteers work with community organizations, such as churches, to reach out to people who may need help picking up medications or grocery shopping. In the United Kingdom, 165 volunteers also distributed 7,000 flyers among a single community because, Fliz von Reiterdank said, “A lot of elderly don’t have computers,” so it’s not enough to rely on the internet to get the word out.

One of the group’s first endeavors was to produce a “Volunteering Hygiene Recommendation Video,” which was approved by healthcare experts. But in its short existence, they’ve already had to update those guidelines several times because of the virus’s high and evolving transmissibility.

“If you don’t do the hygiene part, you might as well not help,” Fliz von Reiterdank told Forbes. “I mean, it’s even better if you don’t help in that case.”

That said, volunteers are needed now more than ever, said Dr. Mayur Lakhani, who was one of those who reviewed the group’s hygiene guidelines.

“Health services alone cannot deal with the pandemic,” he told Forbes. “As a working doctor, I know there are so many lonely people who cannot rely on other people to support them. Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic requires a national effort and strong partnerships between health providers and public volunteers.”

For the last 55 years, NORWESCAP has been helping to support low-income families and individuals across Northwest New Jersey. Today, as our region and country face the threat from COVID-19, that commitment is stronger than ever.

If you’re looking for opportunities to volunteer, donate materials, or otherwise support NORWESCAP’s work during this crisis, call MaryBeth Ringo at 848-459-5882 or email her at Monetary donations may be made here.