Giving back to your community: How to help out during the crisis

In many countries, we’re still dealing with the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, but life is slowly getting back to what we now refer to as the “new normal”. Although lockdown measures are getting more relaxed, the impact of this pandemic on our lives is far from over. If there’s one thing that this situation has made us realise, it’s that we’re all in this together. This situation has had some horrible consequences on our lives, but the crisis has also been a wake up call for a lot of people to come together to help out and make the world a better place. Let’s be positive and focus on this silver lining.

If you’d like to be part of the movement and give back to your community, we’ve compiled a list of initiatives in the UK that you can support and give your time to. Whatever the level of involvement you’re ready to commit to, or the type of service you’d like to offer, there is something for everyone. Have a look at the initiatives below and take action today.

Befriend a lonely or isolated person

There is no doubt that the pandemic has been especially difficult for the elderly, who have found themselves isolated due to their vulnerability to the virus. In the UK, hundreds of thousands of people over the age of 75 are lonely and cut off from society, and this has been exacerbated since the start of the lockdown.

To help out, you can join a programme to befriend an elderly person, such as the CHD Living Adopt a Grandparent programme. The programme aims to bring a sense of comfort to the elderly, by matching them with a younger person and building a long-lasting intergenerational friendship, which makes them feel less isolated. The Adopt a Grandparent programme is still running during the crisis, with participants being able to communicate through phone calls, video conferencing, letters or emails.

Another similar initiative is the Omega Chatterbox action against loneliness, which is a short-term telephone befriending programme. Its goal is also to help combat loneliness and isolation through fostering meaningful human connections and friendships. The Omega Chatterbox supports the elderly, but also people who are isolated due to their caring role, bereavement or life-limiting challenges. All you need to do to take part in this rewarding experience is commit to a weekly one-to-one telephone conversation for a minimum of 3 months. One hour out of your life every week can seem like nothing, but it can truly make a difference for someone who is suffering from social isolation.

Help someone in need put food on the table

The economical impact of the pandemic has left many families struggling for essential supplies, such as food. In light of this, many food aid organisations have ramped up their operations, and, as a result, need a bit of extra support.

Do you have some free time that you’d like to put to good use? Many organisations are looking for volunteers to help out. For example, City Harvest is a food poverty charity that distributes food to the people and communities who need it the most. To help out with their day-to-day activities, the organisation is looking for volunteers to sort food donations and unload deliveries in their warehouse based in Acton. Similarly, Feast With Us, a London-based food aid organisation, is looking for cooking and delivery volunteers, as they’ve seen a 300% increase in demand since the start of the outbreak.

Man delivering food to neighbours during the covid19 crisis

Many organisations also encourage non-perishables or monetary donations, which truly help sustain operations. This is the case of The Felix Project, London’s biggest food redistribution charity. Due to the amount of interest they have received for their volunteer programme since the start of the lockdown, they are no longer accepting new volunteer applications. Despite this surge in the number of volunteers, the current hunger crisis means they are still working in overdrive, and now need funds to grow quickly. The best way to support their project at this stage is by donating on their website.

If you’d like to give to a food bank in your local community, the Trussell Trust has made it easy to find a food bank near you. Simply indicate your location in the search bar, and you’ll obtain a list of the food banks closest to your location. For those of use who are unsure about where to give or what to give, Bankuet can help out. This company’s mission is to make food aid more efficient through technology, by getting food banks what they need, when they need it.

Run errands for your neighbours

For many people, the “new normal” is still distant. Indeed, in the UK, individuals who are deemed extremely vulnerable to the virus are still being asked to practice social shielding. These people are advised to avoid face-to-face contact and public places. Obviously, these instructions make it quite difficult for them to resume their day-to-day lives and run errands.

Thankfully, some local organisations make it easier to identify people who need support and match them with someone who can help out. On Hand and Local Helpers are examples of such organisations. Their objective is to match volunteers to people who need help. Through their platforms, volunteers can offer a range of different services, from shop drops, to medication pick-ups and errand running.

Calling all dog people – you can help out a fellow neighbour while spending some quality time with a pup! For dog owners who are vulnerable to the virus, the current situation can be very challenging. Underdog International understands this, which is why they’ve set up the Underdog Unity Neighbourhood Volunteer programme. They’ve assembled a network of volunteers to help dog owners who are struggling to take care of their pets during the pandemic. As a volunteer, you can help out with different tasks, such as dog walking, buying supplies, organising vet visits or offering temporary foster care.

Girl walking dogs to help the members of her community

Support your community in any way possible

The examples mentioned above go to show that there are so many ways in which we can help our community. During these difficult times, we should all strive to lend a hand in any way we can. Whether it’s by volunteering, donating, or supporting local businesses and charities – any action can make a difference.

If you’re looking to help out smaller, localised initiatives, have a look at Covid Mutual Aid. Their website is a directory of thousands of local community groups that support people through the pandemic. Can’t find anything that suits you? You can always look to start your own support group. It is recommended that you start small, with a hyper-localised approach, which is often more effective and manageable. As a starting point, have a look at the Covid Mutual Aid website, which offers useful tips on setting up a group or get in touch with the Covid Tech Support service.