Or “How to become a volunteer and help others survive the pandemic crisis.”
Hard times and difficult situations are at the same time moments when you can see the most good in people. There is a unique human connection that can happen only during times of crisis. Faced with danger, people become less self-absorbed, more considerate, and eager to help one another. They begin to cooperate and act in solidarity, forgetting their differences, and personal interests. This year, in times of the global pandemic, we had a chance to observe and participate in a perfect example of this phenomenon. These empathic behaviors and actions are now broader and deeper than ever as the crisis itself.
It started in March with the lockdown. The countries closed borders and people opened their hearts. Countless initiatives worldwide were established to help those who suffered the most due to the COVID-19 pandemic or restrictions it brought. Everybody wanted to help. Companies started donating money or building medical equipment, students assisted seniors in everyday chores, psychologists started offering free consultations, clients were organizing various actions to help local businesses. Although the first wave of this spontaneous movement is long gone, and we all got used to the “new normal” let’s try not to lose this renewed sense of community and keep up the good work.
So, you want to do some good too, but don’t really know where to begin? During these past few months, many great initiatives were born in Pomerania and all over Poland. With only a little effort, you can become a part of it. Read our guide and start!
Simple steps that can change a lot
You’d like to volunteer, but you’re busy? Don’t be afraid, it doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. For example, by taking part in an action called “Sąsiedzie zostań w domu. Nie zostaniesz sam” (Neighbour stay home, you won’t be alone) you can help those in need in your closest surrounding. The action started very small – a group of young people connected with the Dominican Order offered help with simple tasks like shopping or dog walking to the elderly and disabled in their neighborhoods. Now, thanks to media support and involvement of Olivia Business Center, the action spread, and many people around Tricity are joining. The beauty of this initiative is that you can help your neighbors while doing your own chores. Interested? All you need to do to participate is print an action poster from the website gdansk.dominikanie.pl, input your name and phone number, and put it in your building or neighborhood noticeboard.
Helping others can be as easy as checking your Facebook updates. If you’re used to scrolling your social media every day, just sign in to one of the volunteering groups! This way, you can see who needs help as you read your Facebook feed. You can join Visible Hand 3city, a community of people that already gathered 24.000 volunteers. Every day you will find many support requests and offers there. You’re not from Tricity? No worries, other cities have similar groups, for example, Visible hand Chwaszczyno. If you’re a dog person (or just not afraid of dogs), you can help dog owners who have to stay at home for the quarantine. Join a group called Pies w koronie (Dog in the crown) and check who needs help in your neighborhood.
Now, something for those not on social media. You can download the I help You app, a mobile platform connecting volunteers and those who need them. Have it? Good. Just select your location and wait until someone in need of assistance in your area contacts you.
Help and #stayhome
Ok, but is there a way to help if you’re in the risk group yourself and shouldn’t go out? Yes, you can help while staying safe at home. Join Telefon pogadania (Phone to talk), an action created to help those who have a hard time coping with isolation. You can offer your support and words of kindness to those who face the pandemic alone. You don’t need to be a psychologist or a coach; you can help just by being there and offering a few minutes of your time.
Are you an entrepreneur? Or you work for a company with a lot of electronic equipment that is no longer in use? You can offer your old computers to the kids who are now learning remotely! Children’s homes and foster families need them the most. If you have kids, you know how frustrating and difficult online classes can be, both for kids and parents. So, if it’s hard with the two of your own, imagine what chaos it can be with 15 kids! Each of them at different ages, different subjects to cover, and overlapping schedules. You can make their lives a little bit easier with your old laptop.
Computers are only the tip of the iceberg for children’s homes’ needs during COVID. Many such institutions are gaining a big part of their financing from donors—companies and private people. Now, the donors are having financial issues themselves due to the crisis and overall lack of stability. Many of the supporters backed off their funding. To make things even worse, because of closed schools, kids are now spending the entire days inside. More than ever before they need toys, games, and books—all the things that can entertain them during upcoming long winter evenings. Luckily, you don’t have to guess their needs; you can check for yourself what kind of help would be most appreciated by the kids and their guardians.
SOS for the homeless
Do you think staying at home during isolation time is hard? How about those who don’t have one? You can help the homeless whose situation was greatly impacted by the pandemic by donating money or winter clothes to charitable organizations. For example, Towarzystwo Wspierania Potrzebujących Przystań and MOPR are organizing “Autobus SOS” (SOS bus) that every evening travels the roads of Gdańsk and Sopot bringing help and support for those with no home. SOS Bus is where they can eat something hot, receive medical assistance, winter clothes, or shelter. If you want to help, just bring winter clothes you no longer need to Pogotowie Socjalne at Srebrniki 9 street in Gdańsk and let streetworkers hand them out to those in need.
You can also help the homeless by using an app called Arrels introduced by the City of Gdańsk and Towarzystwo Pomocy im. Św. Brata Alberta. This simple application enables citizens to inform the organization whenever they spot homeless people living on the streets of Gdańsk in the cold so streetworkers could reach them faster. All you have to do to help is download the app and click.
As you see, many groups need help during pandemics—people who are sick or elderly, lonely, homeless, or hopeless. You certainly cannot help all of them, but you can do a lot of good if you just pick one charity and get involved. If you want to help regardless of the pandemics, many institutions constantly need volunteers’ help. You can read more about them in our previous article.
A lot of good is happening in our region, especially in Gdańsk. Therefore, we are not surprised that our Pomeranian capital has been appreciated internationally. On December 5th, the International Volunteer Day, Gdańsk was announced the European Volunteering Capital 2022! This prestigious title is a distinction for all Gdańsk volunteers for their devotion and solidarity in the time of a pandemic and beyond.