As COVID-19 spreads across the world and authorities telling us to properly wash our hands, stop touching our faces, avoid group gatherings and practice social distancing, and the pandemic bringing out the worst in some people (who would have thought toilet paper punch-ons would become a thing?), life as we know it is in limbo.
With cities responding to the coronavirus by temporarily closing restaurants, bars, entertainment venues; educational institutions cancelling classes (and some moving them online), countries such as Italy and Spain on lock down and other governments (such as Australia and New Zealand) enacting a mandatory two-week self-quarantine period for overseas travelers, people are rightfully feeling anxious, uncertain and powerless.
So we’ve put together this list of 10 ways to support the vulnerable, under-privileged and the elderly amid this coronavirus pandemic to keep the spirit of community alive in these challenging times:
1. Check in on them.
It’s important to practice social distancing and avoid leaving home unncessarily, but you can still show people that you care by calling them, texting them, Skyping them, using Facetime or whatever communications technology suits you. Make sure to check in on the vulnerable members of your family, neighbours (especially the elderly), single parents, healthcare workers and teachers and other people in your life that you think may be struggling or hugely affected by what’s happening.
2. Share your toilet paper supply.
With supermarkets struggling to keep up with the panic-buying and enforcing buying restrictions, and some low-income people and families unable to afford more than a six-pack of toilet paper (and some can’t even get toilet paper because shelves have been stripped), a grassroots movement has taken off in some Australian communities where people are showing neighbourly support and offering up rolls of toilet paper to others on their street. Why not implement in your neighbourhood?
Related Post: 10 Small Ways You Can Show Kindness This Month
3. Offer to help vulnerable family, friends and neighbours.
Since major supermarkets are halting online delivery services, many vulnerable people will be stuck without food and other essentials. If you’re doing a grocery run, pick up some items for vulnerable, pregnant and elderly members of your family and community (you can coordinate this via phone or text) and drop the goods off at their doorstep to minimise risk.
In the United Kingdom, Becky Wass from Cornwall, designed the #ViralKindness postcard to encourage others to offer their services to the vulnerable, elderly or self-isolating people in their community. As she had hoped, the movement has gone viral.
“Coronavirus is scary,” she said on Facebook. “Let’s make kindness go viral.”
The concept has proven so popular that a person employed at a printer in Bradford, UK printed the #viralkindness cards and they are now available upon request.
My partner works for a printer in Bradford. They have printed stacks of #viralkindness cards. If you would like any, drop me a message and I can get some to you #bahsoncolour #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/PJCokXM5y3— Hannah Turp (@Hanturp22) March 16, 2020
4. Support local businesses by buying gift cards or making online purchases.
Small businesses such as local retailers, hairdressers, cafes and restaurants, and tourism operators are struggling to keep staff on and stay afloat as our cities close down and people stay at home to mitigate the risk of spreading coronavirus. Since occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries are still celebrated, and in the future you will need to get a haircut or plan a weekend escape, why not purchase a gift card or make an online purchase from a local business? They will appreciate this gesture more than you could ever know.
5. Donate to charities helping the homeless, elderly, sick and hungry.
With fundraising events cancelled worldwide and volunteers staying at home, charities are facing a financial crisis leaving the people they help – the homeless, elderly, sick and hungry – more vulnerable. Donating to charities such as Meals on Wheels, Save the Children, WellChild and mental health support services such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue will help them to continue their important work during this time of crisis.
6. Don’t freak out if businesses don’t accept your reusables.
Eco-conscious consumers and zero wasters will have no choice but to accept single-use paper coffee cups and plastic tumblers when purchasing at cafes and restaurants under new health and safety measures rejecting the use of personal reusable cups. This is designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect baristas and other workers.
Early in the month, Starbucks announced that it is suspending its reusable cup policy due to the novel coronavirus outbreak but will continue to honour its discount for anyone who brings in their reusables, event if they can’t use them.
“Our focus remains on two key priorities: Caring for the health and well-being of our partners and customers and playing a constructive role in supporting local health officials and government leaders as they work to contain the virus,” said Rossann Williams, Starbucks’ president of company-operated businesses in the United States and Canada in an open letter published on the company’s website.
If this is a deal-breaker for you, just avoid buying takeaway coffee and just enjoy the beverage at home instead.
7. Donate to a food bank.
Donate to your local food bank to help keep it stocked up as vulnerable families and people will rely on this service more during this time of crisis. During the Australian bushfires, we learned that food banks prefer cash to tinned goods, so before you decide to clean out your pantry of canned tomatoes and baked beans, considering giving money instead.
8. Write a letter.
Hospitals and nursing homes are restricting visitor access so writing a letter to loved ones and other care residents will help to brighten their day knowing that there’s someone who cares enough to write them a letter filled with well wishes and kindness.
9. Sing from your balconies together.
Follow in the footsteps of the Italians and sing from your balconies. There’s nothing like music and song to lift community spirits and improve morale.
10. Join a local COVID-19 Mutual Aid group (UK)
If you’re in the UK, consider joining a local COVID-19 Mutual Aid group near you. This volunteer-run focuses on “supporting local community groups organising mutual aid throughout the Covid-19 outbreak in the UK” and provides guidance and resources on how you can support your local communities.
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Feature image by Claire Mueller.