We’re washing our hands. We’re avoiding large gatherings. For those of us lucky enough to be able to work remotely, we’re asking our teams to stay home while continuing to support and run our businesses as best as we can. But how else are we giving back in a time that it is needed the most?
Since mandatory lockdowns began in the U.S. in March, many have stepped up to support the needs of some of our most vulnerable population and the real heroes working on the frontlines of this pandemic.
Technology companies like LinkedIn and Zoom have opened up parts of their platform for free to students and schools to encourage virtual learning. Investment bank Morgan Stanley pledged $10 million in support of COVID-19 response efforts, including organizations like Feeding America, the CDC Foundation, and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which was launched by the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. Famous musicians like Chris Martin of Coldplay, John Legend and Bono have played free virtual concerts via social media, encouraging people to practice social distancing and to raise funds for various charities.
However, giving back is not limited to those who pledge or raise millions of dollars for non-profits, or folks who command a vast social media following. The opportunity to make an impact in these challenging times is much closer to home and our own local communities than we can imagine. For a few hours a week, here are several ways to give back today without leaving home.
Small business support and mentorship. Despite government stimulus packages and aids, small businesses across the U.S. have already felt the financial crunch from coronavirus restrictions lasting just a few weeks. At best, many have reduced hours or closed their doors temporarily. For some, the ability to re-open when this is all behind us is uncertain. This is why the small actions we make today, if we are able, could help our favorite bar or local restaurant keep afloat; buy gift cards, order food-to-go, participate in local fundraising efforts.
Taking that a step further, social platforms like MicroMentor, a program of non-profit group Mercy Corps, have put together a resource specifically for small business owners impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. There are volunteer opportunities for business leaders who have experience guiding businesses through a period of sustained revenue loss to mentor companies through this economic downturn. With small and medium-sized businesses accounting for half to two-thirds of jobs worldwide, helping these businesses navigate these challenging times is ever-more impactful today.
Online literacy programs and tutoring. Many of us now tasked with homeschooling our children while juggling our jobs at home overlook the fact that this in itself is a privilege. Many first respondents and other essential workers do not have the opportunity to teach or tutor their kids at home.
If you could spare the time, there are a multitude of virtual volunteer opportunities – even for as little as 30 minutes per week – to help under-resourced communities and students. Non-profits like Upchieve.org, or TutorMate have a platform to connect volunteer adults with young learners to keep them engaged even through these difficult times. If the last few weeks at home have taught me something, it is the importance of nurturing my children and keeping them learning.
One-on-one support and crisis counseling. We all react differently to stressful situations. An estimated 264 million people worldwide have an anxiety disorder, and in the past year alone, more than 19% of U.S. adults have experienced some form of anxiety. The uncertainty of an unknown disease taking the lives of so many can be overwhelming and can take an emotional toll, but imagine having to deal with this in isolation.
Learning how to cope with stress can make our community stronger. Crisis Text Line offers a free 24/7 messaging line for people in distress. The service is powered by volunteer Crisis Counselors who, like many of us today, work remotely – anywhere with a computer and secure internet connection. Sometimes it just takes some active listening and collaborative problem solving to get through a tough day. The service is currently available in the U.S., Canada, Ireland and the UK, and they are always looking for volunteers.
Despite the uncertainty that we all face amidst the COVID-19 crisis, what many of us have earned through it all, which we often neglect, is the gift of time. Now it’s up to us to use it as best as we can to persevere and help each other get through these challenging times.