Australia is facing an unprecedented crisis and our main act of social responsibility right now is to practise physical distancing, which can feel passive. Where we might have usually put our hands up to lend a hand, or taken to the streets in protest , we’re now finding ourselves at home, sometimes alone. But there are still ways to give our time, money or support to others. We’re home but we’re not helpless.
“According to the World Giving Index, which looks at 10 years of data, Australia is the fourth most generous country in the world. One of the challenges we’ve got is that charities are going to face some really tough times in the months ahead,” says Krystian Seibert, philanthropy and giving expert at Swinburne University of Technology.
So how can we help? “The current crisis has two levels to it: one is at a community level, donating toilet rolls, for example, and the other is through charities,” Seibert says. “Many Australians are going to be under financial pressure so it may affect their ability to donate money. What you can do is identify a charity either because it’s been impacted by the crisis, or a charity that has had increased demand.” Donate money if you can. If you can’t, here are eight more ways you can support others right now.
Be a voice of comfort
Another insight from the World Giving Index is that 64% of Australians said they’d help a stranger – and we’re seeing more people reaching out beyond their homes to help others. You can register your interest to volunteer with Australian Red Cross, which is still supporting those recovering from the bushfires as well as those impacted by Covid-19. Once registered, the Red Cross will match your interest with locations where help is needed. Remote volunteering includes wellbeing checks on those in isolation.
Take a neighbour’s dog for a stroll
A Sydney resident, Lisa Hollinshead, set up a community network called One Another while she was stranded in Spain with her 89-year-old grandmother during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak. One Another volunteers can offer services like walking a neighbour’s dog, picking up groceries and being on the end of the line for someone who’s lonely. “It’s a place where people can ask for help,” she says. “People can register their details and nominate people who need help or nominate themselves. Being a single mum and having to isolate for two weeks is a reality that I am facing too. It’s a platform for single mums, for people who have asthma, and people who are generally finding it tough.”
Our biggest social responsibility is to stay home, but there are vital services that still need our help in person. Lifeblood’s chief executive, Shelly Park, is calling for healthy donors to continue making generous donations of blood and plasma. Blood donor centres are open and blood is needed for transfusions, cancer patients, car accidents and to replace blood lost during birth. Check your eligibility in this online tool. Donation centres are also undergoing further sanitation protocols, including social distancing, restricting non-donating visitors and introducing a 28-day donation postponement for any donors returning from overseas.
Adopt a healthcare worker
Another vital out-of-home service is healthcare – but you don’t need to step a foot out of the door to help out. Thanks to a Perth resident, Chris Nicholas, who set up a Facebook community called Adopt a Healthcare Worker, you can connect with a healthcare worker in your local area. The Western Australia page now has 43,000 members and there is a separate page for every state and territory, as well as pages for Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK. It’s not a space for medical advice, memes or politics, say the page’s admins (a team of 59 people around the world).
“We’ve seen the interactions go from let’s bake things or take coffee to people organising share-houses, for example, if a healthcare worker is living with someone who is in a high-risk category,” says Nicholas, who is now in isolation. “I think it’s resonated with people because everyday people can get behind it. We don’t organise anything, we connect people”. Don’t want to commit to adoption? You can also buy a healthcare professional a coffee by donating to this Go Fund Me campaign.
Order lunch and pay it forward
In Melbourne and Sydney, you can order an at-home desk lunch delivery and your meal order will be matched with a second one donated to a women’s shelter or soup kitchen – many of which are still offering services to women in need. Two Good started out as a soup kitchen and it’ has gone on to collaborate with leading chefs incuding Peter Gilmore and Kylie Kwong. Office workers have been ordering its jars of densely packed salads for years, and now that your home is your office you can stock up on a lunchtime feed and throw in some beauty products – all in the knowledge that someone else will receive the same. Delivery is $15, or free if you’re ordering 10 or more meals.
Raid the cupboard
Suffering buyer’s remorse over that extra packet of cereal, instant noodles, sanitary towels or toothpaste? There are food banks still accepting donations of unopened and in-date pantry foods including cooking oil, condiments, dry goods, tinned food, long-life milk and instant coffee. The Asylum Seekers Centre has limited operations at its centre in Sydney’s inner west and it is not open for people to visit, but its chief executive, Frances Rush, is still calling for cash donations on its website and food and toiletry donations where possible. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Footscray is asking for donations to be dropped at collection points, or at the rear of its building, to limit human contact. There is also a petition to introduce government measures to support people seeking asylum in Australia right now. There is no financial aid from the government for those seeking asylum.
Post support cards
A Melbourne resident, Leona Irvine, created the Facebook group Covid-19/Corona Virus Mutual Aid a week ago as a place where Melburnians can seek and offer aid for at-risk groups, including elderly, disabled and immunocompromised people. “Help that is being offered are things like grocery shopping and picking up pharmacy items,” Irvine says. Community members are also sharing the Viral Kindness postcard, created by a UK resident, Becky Wass, available to download and print here. “People who might need help the most, might not be on Facebook or not have access to these groups,” she says. There are Mutual Aid Facebook groups across the country. They include Inner West Sydney, ACT and Surrounds, Alice Springs, Adelaide Inner South (Unley). Facebook says that more than 200 groups of this nature have popped up around Australia.
Pledge to volunteer when thing are back to normal
The Brisbane-born initiative Orange Sky Australia is one of many face-to-face charities that have made the decision to pause their operations. In the six years since Nic Marchesi and Lucas Patchett set up Orange Sky they’ve provided 142,395 loads of washing and 14,594 warm showers to people living on the streets. In light of the government’s advice, they’ve paused operations in 26 locations across the country, except in remote locations. Training for new volunteers is on hold until April, but once up and running they’ve said they’ll need volunteers more than ever. While you’re at home, consider the charities that are making tough decisions and, if you can’t donate cash, make a commitment to volunteer once it’s possible to do so.
? Do you have other suggestions for how to help during the Covid-19 crisis? Leave a comment below, or email [email protected] with “Ways to help” in the subject line, and we will update this list with your suggestions