8 Ways to Volunteer Virtually in Quarantine
By Tonya Russell
A few years ago, my fiance and I got into an argument on our way to spend Christmas with my family.
As we drove through unfamiliar territory, we began to notice a lot of people who appeared to be without a home. This started to break up the tension as we turned our thoughts to this bigger issue.
It made us realize that what we were fighting about was simply petty.
When we returned home, we decided to get cooking. We prepared some hot soup and ham sandwiches, then circled back to the men and women hovering over manholes to stay warm.
It became a ritual of ours after fights, and then on a weekly basis. Planning and preparing those meals brought us closer and allowed us to bond over a desire to work together to help others.
We've expanded over the last seven years, and our passion projects have been mostly geared toward helping veterans and children experiencing homelessness.
Shutdowns and physical distancing have prevented us from giving back the way we'd like, so we've searched for other ways to volunteer without risking exposure to COVID-19.
Physical distancing doesn't have to prevent us from keeping up our ritual and making a difference for those who need it most.
Many have trouble volunteering because of hectic schedules. With virtual volunteering, it's easy to find opportunities that fit your terms.
Studies show that those who volunteer report higher levels of happiness, likely due to an increase in empathy and a resulting sense of gratitude for what you have.
It can also boost self-confidence and give individuals a sense of belonging and purpose. I've personally felt idle sitting at home, and a sense of purpose is just what I need.
Ways to Give
Whether you want to take the lead on a project or jump in and help, here are tips to find the right volunteer opportunity for you while physical distancing:
Find Virtual Opportunities
Databases are a great first step in finding the perfect volunteer opportunity. You can filter by categories, hours, and locations. That way, you can pick somewhere nearby in case you want to volunteer in person later.
Grant a Wish
If you have extra cash or a way to raise funds, you can fulfill charity wish lists. Many organizations accept items year-round.
You can choose from different categories like animal welfare, environmental organizations, health services, and the arts. Whatever moves you, you'll find a cause to give to.
Items range in price from low cost to high ticket, so you'll still have something to offer if you're on a budget.
Network on Social
Quite a few organizations are asking for help via their social pages. For instance, Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, New Jersey, asked for sandwiches to be dropped on their doorstep so they could continue their efforts of feeding the homeless, even after quarantine.
Network on your town's Buy Nothing page on Facebook and ask about opportunities. If there's interest, you can start a community drive. You can set up a giving box for people to donate canned goods, or collect cat food and feed the local stray colony.
A group in New Jersey, with the help of local restaurants, used crowdfunding to have meals delivered to COVID-19 wards in hospitals. These efforts not only generated income for local businesses, it showed appreciation to frontline workers, too.
Remember Older Adults
Considering that their age group is the most vulnerable, many older adults are inside their homes or in nursing facilities by themselves, unable to see their families.
Many are craving connection and appreciate volunteer efforts.
Luckily, some facilities are connected. You can take Matthew McConaughey's lead and play Bingo. Other options are reading, playing virtual chess, or giving a musical performance.
To find out about these opportunities, reach out to a local assisted living facility or nursing home to learn what their needs are.
Use Your Talents
Create opportunities with your skills and hobbies. A New Jersey-based runner, Patrick Rodio, organized a fundraiser to honor the class of 2020 who won't be attending their graduations.
The money will go to buying the student's yearbooks. Any extra will go toward college scholarship funds. Rodio has already far surpassed his goal of $3,000.
If fitness is your thing but you don't want to fundraise, providing low cost or free online fitness classes can be a rewarding way to give back.
If you're a musician, share it! You can play an instrument or sing to individuals who live alone over video, or offer free live virtual jam sessions for anyone to join in.
Be a Caregiver
Virtual babysitting is another great way to help. Occupying someone's children for an hour may be just the break homeschooling parents need.
As a certified trauma-focused kids yoga teacher, I enjoy offering meditation or kid-friendly yoga sessions. Creative individuals can offer art lessons, Lego building sessions, or even puppet shows.
Teach Your Favorite Subject
Tutor students on subjects that are your strong suit. If your job requires a lot of writing, offer to proofread papers for middle and high schoolers.
If you're a math whiz, walk some students through word problems. Engineer? Offer coding classes for those looking to expand their job skills.
Find Shared Language
If you speak another language, now is a great time to flex that muscle.
Have Zoom conversations in French or offer translation services. This could mean helping a high schooler pass a class, or it could mean helping an exchange student practice their English.
You can also reach out to local hospitals and organizations in case they're in need of translators for patients and their families.
Adapting to Our New Day to Day
We aren't quite certain when things will go back to normal, or if quarantine is the new normal. While we may be limited in what we can do, that doesn't need to stop our ability to give.
So many — from those experiencing homelessness to the neighborhood kids — depend on our generosity right now.
My fiancé and I look forward to seeing familiar faces when we can return to volunteering in shelters.
Until then, we've partnered with an assisted living facility to offer virtual art classes and music hours to keep their residents entertained.
Our hope is to inspire others to step outside their situations and look after someone to connect with anyone who has also been affected by COVID-19.
We're grateful that technology has made altruism easier, so we can continue our ritual of giving back.
By Karen L. Smith-Janssen
Colette Pichon Battle gave a December 2019 TEDWomen Talk on the stark realities of climate change displacement, and people took notice. The video racked up a million views in about two weeks. The attorney, founder, and executive director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) advocates for climate justice in communities of color. Confronted with evidence showing how her own South Louisiana coastal home of Bayou Liberty will be lost to flooding in coming years, the 2019 Obama Fellow dedicates herself to helping others still reeling from the impacts of Katrina face the heavy toll that climate change has taken—and will take—on their lives and homelands. Her work focuses on strengthening multiracial coalitions, advocating for federal, state, and local disaster mitigation measures, and redirecting resources toward Black communities across the Gulf South.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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