These are uncertain and scary times. We hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.
This situation is constantly evolving and will continue to impact our communities at different times and in different ways. Yet, we know that all the incredible people like you in the world who are compassionate and resilient will help everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, endure.
To help you help others, we have compiled information and ideas based on the best scientific advice available, with a particular focus on those likely to be the most affected by the current situation.
Remember: there is a lot of misinformation online. Seek information from reliable sources.
Read info from the World Health Organization (WHO):
Create a coordinated plan
Plan dedicated lines of communication
Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers to communication
Help counter stigma and discrimination
Consider the needs of vulnerable people in your community
Establish relationships with key community partners like local public health department, other community leaders, local businesses and educational institutions
Review your community’s COVID-19 plan and participate in community-wide preparedness activities
Identify services which might be limited or discontinued during an outbreak (e.g., school lunch programs, senior medical transportation services, etc.)
Create a phone tree to distribute information. Make sure to include backups for the people at the top in case the designated point person gets sick.
Stay informed about the local situation from public health officials
Communicate with your organization members and community partners
How is your organization responding to the outbreak?
What operations and services are affected and how?
Distribute health information and address potential fears and anxieties from misinformation.
Discuss lessons learned.
Update and expand your emergency plan.
Look for ways to expand community partnerships.
We need to help each other and rely on each other during this pandemic. Times of crisis can feel like each person needs to look out for themselves, but in reality most people step up to help during times of crisis. Everyone has something to offer and everyone has something they need.
There are many ways to do this and there might be specific resources or needs in your community that require a different system, but here is a place to start.
Create an email account specifically for your mutual aid group that all coordinators have access to.
Create a form (Google Forms is a good free service for this) that autofills to a google spreadsheet. Make the spreadsheet public so anyone can reach out directly to people who have a need or have made an offer.
Make a separate public spreadsheet for specific needs matching that coordinators can work to advocate to meet.
Spread this info through social media and direct contact with people who may not be on social media like the elderly
Consider starting a communal Venmo account that people can contribute to support the community. Coordinators will all need access and all usage should be discussed and recorded coordinators. No unilateral decisions.
Some of our neighbors are more vulnerable to illness and financial hardship during this public health crisis and may need community support. These include:
People who are immunocompromised
People with chronic medical conditions (like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease)
People living with disabilities
People experiencing homelessness
People living at or below poverty line
People who work in service industries
Refugees and asylum seekers detained at the border
People incarcerated in the prison system
People living with abusers
Donations are down and need is up.
Search for a Feed America food bank in your area.
Check with your local food bank to find out their specific needs before donating.
Shelters are not closing during this crisis. Most are taking aggressive measures to make sure their clients, staff, and volunteers stay safe.
Many are asking for essentials like toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer. Contact your local shelter and find out their specific needs.
Hundreds of blood drives across the country have been canceled and the blood supply is low.
If you are healthy, have not traveled to the COVID-19 hot zones in the last month, and have not had contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, consider making an appointment to donate.
Many schools are working to provide meals to students through pickup or dropoff. Contact your local public school to see if you can help with preparation or distribution.
Grocery shopping, helping with errands.
Donate to or volunteer with Meals on Wheels America. Meals on Wheels has adjusted their programs. Volunteers are no longer entering homes and are delivering more shelf-stable or frozen meals to allow for a less frequent delivery schedule.
Everyone has something to offer and everyone has something they need.
Start a neighborhood/organizational mutual aid shared Google Doc, social media group page, or Google Form for people to share their needs and how they can help.
See “Forming a Mutual Aid Group” for more info.
Remember that the internet is not accessible to everyone. Include plans that include the elderly and others without internet access or acumen.
Low-wage workers are going to be among the first to suffer from a COVID-19 economic downturn.
If you use a service that includes tipping, tip well.
Consider purchasing gift cards now for businesses you know you will use in the future.
Many of our usual fundraising events are not possible while we practice social distancing. Here are some ways to fundraise without gathering in large groups.
Instead of an in-person gathering, ask participants to register to walk or run a certain distance in their own neighborhoods or on a home treadmill. Do NOT encourage people to violate local social distancing or quarantine/shelter-in-place guidelines to participate.
Organize an online tournament where the registration fee for the tournament supports your chosen cause.
If you don’t have a paid account for a digital meetup space, you’ll likely not be able to accomodate the number of people you’ll need. But you can have a dedicated Facebook group where people can take turns doing Facebook live videos. This can be at a designated time or over the course of several days.
Citizen science, humanities, and service projects you can do from home:
Zooniverse - The Zooniverse enables everyone to take part in real cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more. Participate in research of all kinds, from classifying galaxies to counting penguins to transcribing manuscripts. Whatever your interest, there's a Zooniverse project for you.
Smithsonian - Smithsonian Digital Volunteers help make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible by transcribing field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, currency proof sheets, photo albums, manuscripts, and biodiversity specimens labels.
Project Implicit - Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative network of researchers investigating implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings that are largely outside of conscious awareness and control. Help researchers learn the best ways to break down stereotypes by taking tests about attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action.
United Nations Online Volunteering - Volunteers contribute directly to the work of development organizations, working from a computer, tablet or mobile phone anywhere in the world. Organizations collaborate with people of different backgrounds from all over the world, and become part of a global online community of peers who all share the goal of advancing human development.
CitizenScience.gov - This official government website is designed to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across the U.S. government. The site provides a a catalog of federally supported citizen science projects and a gateway to a community of hundreds of citizen science practitioners and coordinators across government.