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Where to volunteer during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis

Whether it’s going on a grocery run or helping someone learn to read, there are some easy ways to give back during the pandemic.

Where to volunteer during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis

Canadians’ altruistic side has emerged since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic in mid-March. Google searches for volunteer opportunities across the country have spiked, there are more reports of random acts of kindness and small businesses are seeing surges of offers for help from neighbourhood regulars.

Here are some ways you can volunteer your time or expertise during — and likely after — the pandemic.

Go on a grocery run for frontline workers or higher-risk seniors

Not only are healthcare workers putting themselves in high-risk situations working long hours, they are also often socially isolating themselves from their families. Some ICU doctors are saying the exhaustion and stress is unlike anything they’ve experienced before. To help out, GroceryHero is gathering volunteers to shop for and deliver groceries to healthcare workers in their area. You will be reimbursed for grocery purchases, but the delivery — and your time — are what you’ll be offering as a free service.

It’s not just front-line workers that need the support. LifeCrate is looking to deliver boxes filled with essential grocery items to low-income seniors in the Toronto region, and they’re in need of extra hands.

Share your love of literacy

Teens and young adult volunteer are being sought out to help younger children sharpen their reading skills and grow their interest in stories through book buddy programs. General requirements include fluency in English, dedicated bi-weekly commitments and a love of reading; some may require a police background check. For more mature readers looking to chip in, Participation House is seeking volunteers focused on adult literacy and education, meeting their mission of enhancing the quality of life of individuals with disabilities.

There are various programs that are increasingly becoming remote; check your local library website for online programs as well.

Offer companionship to a fellow senior citizen

It’s is an especially uncertain and lonely time in long-term care homes. In-person visits have been halted to reduce external exposure, scary statistics are hovering over many homes across the country and in some facilities the military has even been brought in to manage COVID-19 responses.

Ontario-based Spectrum is a home healthcare provider that offers personal support, nursing and homemaking services to seniors to increase their independence. While its services have been altered during the pandemic, the organization is still making online senior-to-senior conversations available through their volunteer-driven program. Mature volunteers are requested specifically for this program so that clients can enjoy shared experiences and build genuine relationships.

Transcribe history for the Smithsonian

Not a people person? You can still volunteer your time and writing skills to one of the world’s most notable museums. The Smithsonian is looking to bring on volunteers for their transcription centres to help build materials on special projects from women’s history to field books and bureau records. With thousands of volunteers taking part, transcription is helping to make their online materials more accessible to all audiences.

Offer support to sufferers of domestic abuse

In just three weeks, a Vancouver women’s shelter has reported calls to abuse helplines have risen 300 percent since the start of the pandemic. This sadly isn’t an anomaly; worldwide reports of increased abuse and domestic crises have spiked. While shelters and support centres are seeing unprecedented traffic, they can use all the support they can get — some are looking for volunteer-run phone assistance while others are seeking donated household items such as baby supplies or feminine hygiene products. Chatelaine has compiled a list of foundations and shelters seeking assistance.

Fill in questionnaires to help track the spread of illness

If you’re looking for helpful way to contribute time that’s low-maintenance and doesn’t require a specialized skillset, you may want to consider becoming a “FluWatcher” through this government program. The program emails participants on a weekly basis from October to May to track reports of coughs, fever and other flu-like symptoms. All of the data collected is packaged into weekly reports and an interactive map which is published on the Health Canada website for public access.