While the time we are living in may sometimes feel dominated by insurmountable negativity, it has also incited widespread innovation and kindness. Large charitable gifts from corporations, foundations, and individuals worldwide hit the $10 billion mark last week (link)! Factories across the world are retrofitting their assembly lines to aid their governments by producing PPE, ventilators, and other essential equipment required to combat the virus. Individuals are donating more to charities and non-profits overall (link), in addition to other initiatives such as making an effort to support their local establishments, tipping drivers generously, and waiving rents for tenants.
A gym in Phoenix (link) that helps recovering addicts overcome their addictions through promoting a healthy lifestyle, is helping its members stay sober through the pandemic by holding online workout classes for its members, in addition to welcoming new members from around the world into its community. Several women in Toronto, aka ‘the sandwich sisters’ (link) have banded together (on video chat, of course) and started a mini-movement of sorts by preparing homemade sandwiches together to distribute to homeless shelters across the city. Just last week, Stan, one of our contributors, posted about how his mum was making masks for the entire village where they are quarantined (link). Hundreds of thousands of people across the globe have assembled themselves into mutual aid groups (link) to assist their localities in any and all ways imaginable, especially by supporting the marginalized groups hardest struck in this pandemic.
I truly believe that finding ourselves in this situation, united against this calamity, has and will continue to change us for the better. We've put aside our differences, even in these times of unrivaled polarization, and we have come together to build a different kind of wall – a fearless human wall of defiance – in answer to this crisis that threatens our world.
As we learn about the many ways in which people and organizations are going out of their way to be altruistic, it inspires us to think about how we too can lend a hand. This largely goes without saying, but it’s important to remember that one of the simplest ways that we can do our part is by following the health and social distancing guidelines set out by our respective localities – thank you all so much for doing so. If you would like to take it one step further, we, at Inciting Altruism, have put together an extensive list of the many different ways in which you can contribute to relief efforts.
This approach allows you to help others from the comfort and safety of your own home. Furthermore, it helps mitigate the risk of inadvertently spreading COVID-19.
One method of virtual volunteering involves writing letters of gratitude to front-line workers as well as isolated senior citizens (link). You could also tutor kids from low-income families using video chat (link) or join support groups to help people dealing with a recent loss or those facing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (link).
Help with COVID (link) is a great resource that matches volunteers and their skills directly to COVID-related projects. Those with web-design skills are in especially high demand as smaller brick-and-mortar shops struggle to take their business online. Social media marketing is another realm many new businesses struggle with and if you have any relevant experience, consider reaching out to local businesses and offering your services.
Check up on Your Friends and Family
Being trapped inside is taking a serious mental toll on all of us, causing wild mood swings. Some days are good – others not so much. On the days you find yourself in higher spirits, it’s a good idea to pick up a phone or turn on the webcam. Check up on your loved ones, your friends, or really anyone you feel might need a pick me up. Little gestures like these are sometimes all someone may need to get through the day.
Similarly, on the days you’re feeling down, don’t hesitate to do the opposite and let others cheer you up a bit. Asking for help is one of the more courageous actions an individual can take. You may think you are being a burden, but in reality, giving someone the opportunity to help lift you up may actually help them feel better about themselves as a person and foster the kind of connection we all need to get through a time like this.
Maintain/Boost Your Philanthropic Efforts
Nonprofits, foundations, and charities need your monetary support now more than ever. As they continue to distribute support to those in need, many fundraising events have been postponed indefinitely, causing a drop in revenue. If we want our charities to use their expertise to help us, we should be doing all we can to replenish those funds and keep the wheel of good turning. If it’s within your means, please consider donating to organizations of your choice. Alternatively, you can also choose to fund scientific research to aid the medical community in their search for a vaccine!
Support the Homeless
The homeless community has been struck particularly hard by this crisis. With many parks being cordoned off and restaurants closed, they now find themselves without food and shelter. Forced to huddle up in crowded hostel rooms with little access to sanitation, they are unable to self-isolate or even follow basic health guidelines. You can’t stay home if you don’t have one.
As most soup kitchens and shelters can no longer host cafeteria-style meals, there is no longer a need for volunteer servers either. What you can do instead is prepare food at home and give it directly to any homeless people you see on the streets. Remember to keep your distance, use gloves while preparing the food and PPE while handing it out! If you’re not comfortable distributing it directly, you can find a shelter or food bank nearby that accepts donations and drop off the food there. Whatever food you can donate is great, but for maximal impact call the shelter in advance to see if they are short of any particular items.
Supporting the Arts and Small Businesses
Museums, like many other nonessential venues showcasing the arts, are closed and thus bleeding money. You can show your appreciation for them and help them in paying their staff by buying yearly passes or memberships. As a neat side benefit of your membership, you’ll get to visit the museum for free when it opens up!
You can also choose to support independent artists in a myriad of ways (Spotify (link), buying tickets to future concerts, etc).
Consider helping out your local restaurants. If possible, avoid ordering through food delivery apps (they charge exorbitant commissions) and call the restaurant directly first to see if they can place the order for pickup over the phone or have their own delivery service. Another thing you can do is buy gift cards that you can use once restaurants reopen. This is a great way to give your favorite restaurants some much-needed cash so that they can keep paying their employees in the interim.
As for my personal favorite, help local, independent bookstores by ordering online (many of them are now accepting curbside pickup and delivery). Here’s a list highlighting hundreds of bookstores that are now selling online in Canada (link). Or order through Bookshop (link), which is an online bookstore that fulfills orders through independent bookstores, they’ve raised $1.4 million for small bookshops already!
Support Animal Welfare
Make a difference by looking out for our furry friends! As shelter workers go into quarantine like the rest of us, many animals are lacking the human companion they need to survive. Many adoption centers are already getting lots of calls by people offering to take in rescue animals. While this is certainly encouraging news, please be wary of the responsibility you take on when adopting an animal and be sure you can commit to taking proper care of them. If you aren’t yet ready to adopt but are planning on sheltering in place for the remainder of the coronavirus crisis, there are many shelter animals in need of foster care.
In-Person Community Volunteering
You can also choose to put together masks, gowns, and other equipment required by medical personnel, or perhaps help feed them. Maybe check in with your neighbors if you can get them anything before going to shop for groceries, especially if you live close to any senior citizens. A good tip if you live in a building is to put up a note on the noticeboard with your contact information, so that any elderlies in the building can contact you for grocery requests.
If you have a Facebook account, consider searching your locality in the search bar and finding a mutual aid group you can join. If you can't seem to find one in your location, you could always create one!
This one is crucial. There is a huge shortage of blood in many parts of the world owing to canceled blood drives and fewer donors. You can be confident in your visit to the donation center as blood centers have some of the highest standards of safety and infection control of any business. Walk-ins are not being accepted in many places, so set up an appointment with either your local blood bank website or at the Red Cross (link) if you’d like to donate blood.
Go out of your way to be kind to essential workers, maybe surprise the grocer packing up your bags with a token of your gratitude, whether that be a generous tip, sincere thank you, or something fun and surprising like a bouquet of flowers.
Use this time to become a better volunteer in the future. Undergo training; learn languages to better help marginalized groups; try and acquire unique skills that can help charities and struggling business owners alike.
Check out VolunteerMatch (link) for thousands of COVID listings – both virtual and in-person – to find something that you'd like to help with!
If you're buying anything from Amazon, use Amazon Smile (link). It is a free service offered by amazon that is absolutely no different from shopping on Amazon normally. All you have to do is change the URL from amazon.com to smile.amazon.com, and Amazon will automatically donate 0.5% of the price of your purchase to an organization of your choice. (.5% of the price of toilet paper these days = a lot of money for charity)
If you're in the US and bored at home, spend some time filling out surveys using Survey Monkey Contribute (link). Every survey you complete donates 50 cents to a charity of your choice. This may not sound like a lot, but it adds up really quickly.
Participate in (or organize) a book exchange! Just be careful when handling other people’s books, be sure to wash your hands.
Share health tips, fundraisers and pertinent information on social media
Additionally, as the scale of this crisis varies geographically, many cities across the world have put up location-specific guidelines on how to contribute to relief efforts. Go online and see how you can help out locally!
Although people have been overwhelmingly coming out to support others during this time of intense need, it is certainly a scary time to be a human. Fear threatens to obscure the humanity in us, lead to rising xenophobia, and divide us. Don’t let fear inform how you treat others and if you can, find ways to help others be just a little less afraid.
If you are out on a walk, do keep your distance from others, but try not to view others as a threat. Give a wave or say a simple “hi” to those you pass and watch as the nervous look on their face quickly turns into a smile. A stranger may not see your mouth behind your mask, but a smile will warm their heart anyways.
If you have any other exciting ways in which you have been helping out in your community, share them with us in the comment section below. Better yet, send us some photos on our social media so we can share them and inspire more people in the iA community!
Similarly, if there is any way Inciting Altruism can further help you or a cause you care about during this time, don’t hesitate to reach out via our contact page.
Stay safe everyone :)
About the Author
When he isn't consumed by chronic procrastination, Aayzed spends his time reveling in cult classic films, concocting wild conspiracy theories, and chatting up strangers every chance he gets. And food. Copious amounts of mouth-watering, sweat-inducing, life-shattering food.
He's incredibly drawn to the written word, and makes vain attempts of his own at exploring his curiosities by way of his blog.