COVID-19 disrupts volunteer workAs the COVID-19 pandemic has swept across the world, no area of life has been left untouched. From millions of people working remotely to the severe curtailing of international travel, COVID-19 and its impacts are inescapable. One area of work in particular has been impacted. In many ways, COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work around the world. Efforts to fight the pandemic have been absorbing much of the global community’s attention and resources. However, the global community is now in danger of neglecting some of the most essential and under-appreciated workers in the word: volunteers. As wallets tighten due to the economic impact of the coronavirus, volunteerism may experience harsh cutbacks.

In some cases, volunteer organizations are finding that their previous model of activity, usually focused around bringing people together, is no longer possible due to social distancing requirements. This has sparked creative and thoughtful solutions about how to serve people who most need help without further endangering their health, overcoming the ways in which COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work.

Who Are the Volunteers?

While these solutions are helpful, there is another problem that is more difficult to confront: the general decline in volunteers. American senior citizens volunteer at a rate of 23.9%, as opposed to the 18.8% of people in their early 20s who volunteer. This rate is consistent in other countries, such as in Northern Ireland, where an estimated 25% of volunteers are over 65, and in France, where the vast majority of regular volunteers are over the age of 55. CDC data shows that COVID-19 becomes far more deadly as people age, with hospitalizations per 100,000 increasing exponentially past the age of 50. Regardless of creative solutions, the essence of volunteer work requires close contact between volunteers and the people they are trying to serve. Thus, the crisis in volunteerism becomes evident: older people are the majority of volunteers but are also those most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Consequently, COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work.

A Local Impact

Ms. Violaine Motte, a volunteer at the Église de la Sainte Trinité, understands how COVID-19 has disrupted volunteer work. The Parisian church distributes food four times a week to any who ask. Motte, who has worked with the church for six years, says that they have been distributing food for over 30 years.

The church sees a large variety of visitors seeking help, from workmen who cannot afford local prices to homeless people to retired people living on a fixed income. In the time of quarantine and social distancing, people coming from such diverse and varied backgrounds present a danger of infection. It is impossible to control or even fully know their movements and contacts. This is a particularly relevant risk for the volunteers at the Trinité church, as they fit the global trend of volunteers. Ms. Motte says that, before the pandemic, volunteers “were getting quite old because the average of the ladies coming is more or less 70 years old.” This creates a serious risk for volunteers at the church, who are thus unable to help while protecting themselves from infection.

As a result, COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work at the church. “The day of the confinement, due to the fact that we have old people in the volunteers, they were no longer allowed to come,” Motte says. “They’re too old; it’s a risky population. The priest decided not to have them anymore preparing the meal or serving the food.” Furthermore, Motte says that as a result of the new rules, the group was forced to take its operation out of the church and into the street, as well as drastically reduce the size of the team preparing food.

In addition, COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work through forced quarantine, which impacts many elderly volunteers. “For the old volunteers, it’s something very sad because they were told not to come anymore. In my point of view, the service is very important for the people who receive the service, but also for the people doing the service,” said Motte. “A big part of them are people living alone, and to come to the church and prepare food for others is a way to be inside their lives.” As the church moves forward in its activities, it remains unclear what can be done to ensure the participation of older volunteers.

This is a problem for the church, as they find it difficult to attract new volunteers. Motte says, “Since I’ve worked there, it’s still quite the same volunteers.” As a result, while older volunteers have been compelled to stay home, there hasn’t been anybody coming to take their place. Motte is frank about the challenges the church faces as a result of the coronavirus: “Now the rules are totally changing, and we don’t know what’s going on in September.”

However, Motte is equally frank about what needs to be done in order to ensure that this important work continues, despite the ways in which COVID-19 disrupts volunteer work: “Encourage more young people to volunteer.”

– Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Impact global poverty
Many non-governmental organizations that work to fight global poverty ask for donations, including The Borgen Project. When someone is living paycheck to paycheck, even donating a dollar can seem like too much. In 2017, about 78% of workers in the United States reported that they are living paycheck to paycheck. What can individuals do if they want to make an impact but don’t feel they have the capital to do so? Here are five ways to impact global poverty without spending money.

Stay Informed

The United Nations published a piece called “The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World.” One of the organization’s recommendations of something everyone can do from their couch is to stay informed on the issues they want to impact. Unfortunately, misinformation can actually harm global poverty. The UN Foundation reported that many people think global poverty has been increasing when, in actuality, it has been cut in half. Staying informed is important in recognizing the common myths about global poverty and informing others.

Volunteer Time

The Face and Voices of Recovery Organization, the Charities Aid Foundation and the UN recommend volunteering as a way to impact causes without spending money. In 2018, the Charities Aid Foundation reported that 39% of people in the United States volunteered their time. In addition, UN volunteers wrote that volunteering can be formal or informal. People can work directly with an organization to impact global poverty, like offering to create digital media for the cause. Alternatively, they can work informally by putting posters about the cause around their community.

Spread Awareness

Another way to impact global poverty is by spreading awareness. In addition to volunteering, the organizations above suggest sharing information about the cause on social media. Heather Weathers, the director of communications at HopeKids Incorporation, wrote a report about how social media is a place where people can first get involved with supporting a cause. Of those who are social media supporters, 37% use those sites to learn more about the organization and cause they’re supporting.

Call and/or Email Congress

If you speak up, your local legislators will keep track. Every time someone calls or emails about a specific bill, Congress members keep a tally of the number of people who voiced support for or rejected the bill. You can find your representatives by putting your ZIP code into the House of Representatives’s “Find Your Representatives” page. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote an article providing tips for anyone considering calling Congress. The article reported that reaching out to local representatives, researching the issue first and being concise are some good ways to go about calling Congress. Similarly, there is a wealth of templates online for anyone interested in emailing Congress, including The Borgen Project website.

Inspire Others to Give

There are also ways to impact global poverty by convincing others to donate. One donation strategy, for which Facebook created a platform in 2017, is the concept of donating your birthday. This process includes choosing an organization and asking people to donate through either an online platform or fundraising letters. From 2018 to 2019, Facebook birthday donations raised about $1 billion for charities.

Even when someone is unable to fight against poverty financially, there are other ways to support the cause. Being informed, volunteering, spreading awareness, contacting Congress and inspiring others to give are all ways someone can impact global poverty without spending money.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Five Easy Ways to Help End Global Poverty

Global poverty is affecting millions of people, and those affected are often living on less than $1.90 a day. The epidemic has been ongoing for centuries, and people continue to die due to starvation, disease and many other issues brought about by poverty. Fortunately, the percentage of people in the world living in extreme poverty is declining. There are easy ways for anyone to help in the fight to end global poverty.

Donate

Donations come in all forms and are taken by all types of organizations. They can be in the form of money, books, school supplies, clothing, blood, organs, time; the list goes on. Each donation, whether it is the spare change from your pocket or clothes that were going to be thrown out, can help immensely.

Sponsor

Sponsoring an event, a charity, a child, you name it, it can make a difference. Sponsoring an event can be a way to end global poverty by raising money and sending the proceeds to people throughout the globe living in severe conditions. Children can also be sponsored, which means the child would receive money each month from their sponsor and is able to use it towards medical care, education and other needs. The sponsor receives a photo of the child and letters from the child with annual updates and can possibly meet the child.

Volunteer

Volunteering is a hands-on, and often life-changing, experience people partake in to end global poverty. Volunteers are needed in the medical field, teaching and advocacy. Even just mentoring and spending time with children makes a huge difference in poverty-stricken countries.

Spread Awareness

This may be the easiest way to join the fight to end global poverty. With social media at our fingertips, we can publish whatever we choose on a platform that is seen by a lot of people. Why not use it to make a difference? Anything from sharing articles, links to donation pages, or even a handwritten post can give a spark to others and encourage them to contribute.

Improve Governance

How many emails and phone calls does the average person make in a week? What if one of those was to Congress? Taking five minutes out of one day of the week could really make all the difference. Researching the issues related to global poverty and reaching out to members of Congress can have the power to bring change and make the difference as to whether or not a bill passes.

Chloe Turner

Photo: Flickr