Want to Help? 7 Easy Ways to Volunteer from Home During the Pandemic
There are more than 230,000 virtual volunteer opportunities you can help with right now.
Many of us typically spend the holidays volunteering: Whether it's serving Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter or delivering Christmas gifts from an angel tree, we're usually out helping our communities. So as we enter a holiday season that overlaps with the pandemic and stay-home orders, I'm feeling pretty restless. I want to be out doing something, but I know the most helpful thing I can do is stay home and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Luckily, I discovered some ways to volunteer from home, and I was surprised at how easy it is to make a difference while sitting on my couch. And it’s not all about donating money: You can volunteer your time to help those impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic while practicing proper social distancing measures.
The organization Volunteer Match has thousands of ways to help out, and there are currently more than 239,000 coronavirus-related virtual volunteer opportunities listed on their site. You can also sort by location to learn how to directly impact your community (there were more than 600 ways to help my city from home!). Here are seven ways to get started today.
Sew and Donate Masks
With personal protective equipment (PPE) still in short supply, medical facilities around the country are accepting donations of fabric face masks. Dust off your sewing machine and try your hand at stitching a batch of our easy sewn face mask instructions in no time. If your friends, family, or neighbors are in need of masks, we have four ways to make a no-sew face mask. Be sure to call ahead and follow all safety guidelines if you’re donating masks to a local hospital or clinic.
Become a Crisis Counselor
With so many people feeling scared or isolated right now (especially as people spend the holidays alone), crisis hotlines are overloaded with calls and texts from individuals experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you feel mentally well enough to help, sign up to become a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. You’ll go through 30 hours of training, and then sign up for shifts where you’ll be able to receive and respond to secure messages via text (you won’t use your personal phone number). Keep in mind you’ll be asked to commit to volunteering for at least 4 hours a week, until you’ve hit 200 hours, but you can continue working with the crisis line long after the pandemic is over.
Participate in Give-19
You don’t have to do anything profound to make a difference from your home this holiday season. The organization Give-19 is encouraging people to use their talents to help out a friend, neighbor, or stranger. The mission is simple: Give 19 of whatever you can. You can give $19, bake 19 Christmas cookies (these are our favorite recipes!) and leave them for a frontline worker to enjoy after their shift, or make and donate 19 Christmas-print face masks.
Record an Audiobook
With schools closed, parents have stepped in to the role of homeschool teachers, and teachers have had to create new lesson plans of distance learning opportunities all semester. You can alleviate some stress by volunteering to record an audiobook for Learning Ally. They’re producing as many audiobooks as possible for kids and young adults to listen to while they’re out of school.
Track the Spread
Since testing for COVID-19 still isn’t widely accessible to everyone, scientists and tech companies have teamed up to create a program called COVID Near You that helps track the spread of the virus so doctors can learn more about how it is transferred and what symptoms to warn patients about. Whether you’ve tested positive, experienced symptoms, or are perfectly healthy, they’re asking volunteers to track how they feel every day. All you have to do is log in and check all the symptoms you’re feeling (or report experiencing none). This allows doctors and scientists to look at how symptoms progress and learn more about the virus. More than 595,000 people have logged in and reported their symptoms; to join them, simply visit the COVIDNear You website and answer questions about how you’re feeling.
Make Phone Calls
Another way scientists are tracking the spread of COVID-19 is by contract tracing, which is the process of tracking individuals who have potentially been exposed to someone who has tested positive. Here’s how it works: If you test positive for the coronavirus, you will be asked for a list of everyone you’ve recently been in contact with. Then a volunteer will call everyone on that list and let them know they may have been exposed and let them know what steps to take. By having a volunteer base make these calls, medical professionals are free to treat sick patients. Training and resources are available from the CDC, but these efforts are led by local health departments, so contact yours to find out how to register.
If you're able to donate money this holiday season, consider giving to an organization dedicated to helping those affected by the pandemic. Whether you're participating in Giving Tuesday or just looking to do some extra good around the holidays, these four organizations are providing food, housing, and other resources to those impacted by COVID-19. If you're not in a place to give money, consider organizing a Facebook fundraiser for an organization of your choice to help spread awareness.