There are ways to help the community during Coronavirus
During this global pandemic, many people are feeling frustrated and helpless, especially as the news is mostly negative and at a city, national or global level. At the same time, many people want to do something but are not sure what are the best things to do are. Here is some ideas for making a difference and helping each other during this crisis.
Please note: Care has been taken to write this article so that any advice given complies with up-to-date guidelines and rules from national and state governments. However, as everyone is already aware, this is a constantly changing situation, and it is the responsibility of the reader to check the most up-to-date information from authorities to ensure that they are following the rules.
Tub Tumbling Time
It was said that the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope used to live in a tub up in the hills. One time when the city was preparing for an attack from an invading force, Diogenes could be seen up in the hills tumbling his tub back and forth. Asked why, he said everyone was busy preparing for attack, but he could make no contribution, but wanted to do something, so he tumbled his tub.
Painting of the philosopher Diogenes courtesy of Walters Art Museum
In this time of a pandemic, we are like Diogenes, we want to do something, though most of us are limited to a bit of tub tumbling. A lot of it seems to be sending the same, often wrong, posts through social media. For, me I can write these articles, which I hope inform and help people, as do many other writers on WeekendNotes. Below is a list of other little ways you can help if you don't have a tub to tumble. Would love to hear more ideas and suggestions from people on what things you can do to help at this time.
1. Don't spread Coronavirus
There is one thing that everyone can do during this crisis, and that is to do your best not to spread the infection. Yes, staying at home and not going out at all is best, but at the time of writing this there were no lockdowns in Australian cities, and in fact, with our suburban environment, it is unlikely we would end up with complete lockdowns.
Basically keep up-to-date with the information provided by governments and health authorities. Avoid things people share on social media, as they are often inaccurate and sometimes even fake and dangerous. It is your responsibility to find out the correct information so you should always find the original source.
2. Help through your personal network.
When you hear a story of someone who is ordered into self-isolation but who stops at the supermarket on the way home to pick up essential groceries, you have to realise, they aren't doing this because they are selfish, but because they are not sure if they asked friends to help them, they would. At this time we need to make sure we are letting others know that we are ready to help.
So instead of the normal social media messages about social distancing and hand washing, why not share this one through the network. Then following it up as much as possible.
Just don't ask me to share toilet paper, I have my own crap to deal with.
So a lot of items on the list need a bit of clarification. People may feel that it is not possible to go to someone house to look after their kids or have their kids come to your place. Until extreme lockdown rules are put into place, you can go to someone's place to provide an essential service. A plumber can come around to unclog your toilet, and in the same way, a babysitter can come around to look after your kids. You want to be careful though. But remember, if a person lives by themselves, comes to babysit at your house, then only returns home, it is essentially the same risk as if you all lived in the same household. The risk would be lower than putting the kids into daycare with other kids. You would want to avoid someone who is visiting many people's kids as this can increase the chance of community transmission.
The same goes for providing someone with a place to stay. Yes, there are rules against people coming to socialise, but obviously the government doesn't want people to be homeless, so providing a place for someone in need is allowed, such as a backpacker in exchange for doing gardening, a friend who needs to escape a domestic abuse situation, or a family member who wants to move back home to get out of a crowded share house. The core rule is about them moving in, rather than just visiting.
3. Donate to charities
COVID-19 means that not only is there a need for support for organisation directly related to the crisis, but there is also an increased need for services from other charities. Foodbanks, crisis accommodation services and domestic violence services are three areas that are seeing a rise in demand. At the same time, they are no longer receiving the same amount of financial support from donors because both attention is elsewhere and people have less money.
The temptation is often to donate things. We feel that this is very practical. There are people sewing dolls for children's hospitals, giving cans of food from the huge stash of food that they collected and so on. But when thinking about donating items, contact the charity to find out what they need. When they receive items that they can't use it takes time, effort and often money to deal with them.
The best way to donate is by giving money. When you realise the difference $20 can make to someone in need when given to a foodbank, it is very easy to give. I don't have exact information about what charities are most in need at the moment, but often the ones you have given to in the past still need your help.
4. Buy from locally owned businesses in your area
You can support businesses in your area, especially those owned and operated by locals. Getting takeaway and ordering in food from locally-owned restaurants and cafes means that they can pay the rent, pay staff, and still be there after the crisis is over.
I like also shopping at local stores that sell essentials. For some reason, people are rushing to supermarkets but ignoring the local deli, Asian grocery store and Indian shops. Not only does this support those businesses, but they often have things that have run out in the supermarket.
A controversial choice is to visit your local farmers market. In many states, they remain open to help guarantee food supply, as they often source their produce from farms that don't readily sell to regular supermarkets and fruit & vegetable shops. Buying from your local market will support regional areas as well as being a cheap source of nutrition. But some are fairly crowded, though efforts are being put into place to increase hygiene and social distancing. You have to make a choice on balance.
You can also support locally-owned franchises. But I would do some research. Some franchise companies are waving franchise fees during the crisis to help the franchisees, others are being less helpful. I would suggest checking before you buy.
Like donations, the issue in volunteering is having the right volunteers at the right time. Organisations providing support during the crisis already have many people signing up already, but if you have special skills and experience you should make yourself known. But remember there are lots of other organisations that might need volunteers now, so try and think outside the box. An example is zoos that rely on volunteers to look after animals. After all these animals need care even when they are closed to the public.
There are lots of other ways to help from home as well. Some people are adopting pets. Which of course rescues the animals and if you live alone, help with the loneliness of isolation. Other people are busy with their sewing machines, making soft toys for children's hospitals and doing other things from home. Remember though, contact places first and see what they need at the moment, don't just send things to them.
6. Buy online from Australian owned businesses, especially in country areas
Once we are all stuck at home, we can turn to the Internet for shopping. This allows us to shop from all over the world. Yes, I have friends in many countries, and if you are buying internationally you are helping them, so I am not saying don't do that. However, I would recommend looking to buy from Australian businesses, especially from country regions who have gone through drought, fire, flood and now a downturn due to this pandemic.
There are many businesses around Australia that ship directly to your door. In your nearby area, there are country butchers that deliver fresh meets within a fairly wide range, places that deliver eggs, as well as organic farmers that drop off boxes of fruit and vegetables. Meat deliveries are great if you have a big family or a large freezer.
Country butchers like Schulte's in the Lockyer Valley will deliver to nearby towns and cities if you can't get there in person
You can also find lots of shelf-stable products that will be delivered. I will try and list some in a future article, but products you can order include, wines, fermented shelf-stable sausages, indigenous spice mixes, soaps and woollen products. If you have any great recommendations, list them in the comments.
7. ]Be a positive role model
Some people's social media profiles are just a combination of their personal fear and posts telling people that they must follow strict rules during the pandemic. But we all know this already, so why not use social media to be a positive role model.
Many people have basically made their social media a place to talk about what they are doing from home. Some things my online friends have posted include how they set up their kitchen table to work, their plan for teaching classes online, jokes about making one banana last all week (people were responding with, hey man are you okay because they didn't get the joke), a photo of the books that they plan to read, and for me, photographs and things I can see from my balcony.
I photographed this little busy bee at extreme telephoto from my balcony, but the butterflies were too quick for me
As the Irish say, if you are you are not laughing, you are crying. While a global pandemic is not a laughing matter, the simple fact is that we can still spread happiness around. Every time I am walking down the street now, people move out of my path, as I do theirs. But they also smile at me when they, while makes me feel good. Others are putting up teddy bears in their windows as part of an international teddy bear hunt game where parents walk or drive their kids around the suburbs looking for teddy bears.
Yes, things are terrible at the moment, but it will not last. China has already passed through its crisis and people are heading back to work and restaurants are opening up again. South Korea also seems to be winning the fight, and Australia is doing well. Let's be positive. When you go out, spread some joy, thank the retail workers (seriously, should we start tipping them?), and so on.
At times like this, we do feel helpless. Once we have our stash of groceries in readiness for lockdown, made the transition to working from home and are focusing on being at home, or applied for government benefits, we are at loose ends to think about what else we can do. But we can help in lots of little ways that can make a difference to the community during this time of crisis. If you know of some great ways to help, please add them to the comments below.
If you have friends from overseas who are living and working here, they are not currently covered by any of the social welfare programs unless they're Kiwis on work visas.
Being far from home with an uncertain work future and no support structure, they may need a helping hand in all kinds of ways. Storage of belongings, accommodation, care packages and so on.