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Volunteerism in the era of COVID-19

Updated: Sep 7, 2020

Posted by George.

"Everybody can be great......because anybody can serve" -- a quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This quote has always rung true, but rings a deeper meaning in this era of pandemic and fallout. Now, more than ever, there is an abundant reservoir of work out in our communities, calling to us as residents, citizens or neighbors to do.

The era of COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to organizations and volunteers. At the end of March, 2020, the adult ESL/GED school where I volunteered as a tutor closed. This ended my volunteer involvement for an undetermined time. In the wake of this, I began to read stories of heroism on the front lines at health care facilities, home and long term care organizations and service organizations from grocery to delivery. Inspired by these folks, I started to explore where I might be able to offer my time and energy to help others in my community. I quickly became inspired to seek out a local food shelf to help provide a life line to those experiencing economic disruption. Going through my head was a new set of inquiry---what risk would I run contracting COVID-19 serving the public? Was I willing to forego the risk for the benefit of contributing my energy to a greater good? This was a serious consideration, not only for myself but for my spouse as well. And, I am past my 60th birthday.

Food shelf demand is increasing as the pandemic and economic fallout continues. The creature comforts and necessities that have been in short supply at times become an important part of food box distributions to guests.

Volunteerism is one of the best ways to tap into our soul's interests and desires and create what author Carolyn Baker describes as interdependence. Volunteering can also help you build or acquire new skills such as resilience and courage. All of this may become critical to survival and in how we adapt and respond to climate change and its impact on industrial civilization.

Deep Adaptation is expected to challenge us as a species to rise above our individual ambitions and desires and embrace a new, collaborative way of living. We are fortunate that Minnesota has ranked at the top of the states in terms of the proportion of folks who volunteer their time.

Finding the time can be challenging for those of us who work full time (or more than full time hours), and balance work with family time. For parents, this is particularly so given that many children as students are attending school remotely at home this year. If time is a challenge on a regular basis, there are numerous opportunities for a one-time, single day commitment. There are also growing chances to volunteer remotely. The in-class tutoring I did on a weekly basis has now opened up via zoom. I have recently returned to ESL instruction via remote connection. Many organizations are also very grateful for financial support. Local food shelves, for example, can exponentially stretch their food purchases by using donations of cash to buy bulk basics. COVID19 has revealed weaknesses in our social and economic fabric. The efforts of individuals via volunteerism is critical.

As Carolyn Baker has shown us, developing a greater sense of community and connections with others, interdependence, in other words, can help you prepare for whatever challenges lie ahead in an era of uncertainty, climate change and pandemic. The rewards you reap from this work can last a lifetime.

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