Many of us are quarantined at home, doing our duty to curb the spread of COVID-19, some without pay, others working full-time and taking care of children or family members at the same time. Others still continue to show up to their jobs as health care workers to keep us safe and healthy; retail workers too, are keeping shelves stocked so that we can get the things we need; package carriers are dutifully placing orders at our stoops.
These are strange times, and it’s going to take all of us to make it to the other side better than when we started. And it’s happening all over the world already—in Spain, Italy, and Portugal, quarantined people have applauded health care workers in concert. People in Italy are singing from their balconies. Everyone’s favorite Bake Off host Noel Fielding hosted an art contest on Instagram. Here’s a great list of beautiful things happening all over the world.
It’s important that we serve our communities in any way we can right now—here are a handful of things, many of them free, that you can do right now.
If you have other recommendations for how we can serve our communities during this time, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to help others for free
1. Stay home
The most important thing you can do is to stay home. If you don’t absolutely have to leave the house, don’t. Don’t think of self-quarantine just as a way to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19—imagine that you already carry it. Staying home is about keeping everyone else safe too.
2. Babysit or tele-sit for your friends with kids
Lots of parents are at home right now, balancing paid work and child care in the same breath. Not only do many parents need a chance to get a few things done, children need social interaction. Call them up on Skype or FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
I FaceTimed with my 6-year-old niece yesterday. Yes, video chatting with a kindergartener is a little like watching Cloverfield, but we had a great talk. I learned all about mermaids, and we even laid plans for a business in which we dye Rice Krispy treats the colors of the rainbow—not for commercial sale, but for private blind taste-testing events. (We’re still working on our financial model.) Time well spent.
3. Call or video call your friends and family
Simply staying in touch is one way to take care of the people around you. Especially those who live alone, especially your older friends and relatives, especially those who are taking care of children, especially those who are unable to work right now. Call, check-in, ask how they’re doing. We need each other right now to ensure we’re all taking care of our mental health.
4. Remind your parents and grandparents to stay home
Look, I know there are people of all generations who are doing their part by self-isolating, but I know I’m not the only one who's had to remind my 60+ parents to stay home. I talked to a friend this morning whose retired parents are still hitting up the dinner buffet and mahjong, and Michael Schulman at The New Yorker wrote a story on it .
5. Don’t forget about your military friends
People whose spouses and partners are in the military and deployed right now are experiencing a whole different kind of isolation. Many of them are completely alone in their homes or completely alone while taking care of children. Make it a point to call them and ask what you can do to support.
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6. Consider what you’re buying at the store
Most of us will have to make another trip or two to the grocery store in the coming weeks (again, stay home if you can). If you see an item whose price tag is labeled with WIC and you don’t use the program, choose a different product.
WIC, which stands for women, infants, and children, is a federal food assistance program that aims to “safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets.”
Only specific items by specific brands can be purchased under WIC, so if the store runs out of WIC-approved items, those who depend on it cannot make the purchase.
If you can switch to another item or brand, do it.
7. Run errands for at-risk friends and family members
If you have friends, family members, or neighbors who are high-risk or who have household members who are high-risk, offer to run essential errands for them, like going to the grocery store or drugstore.
8. Share your delivery account credentials
Consider sharing your Amazon Prime or Postmates Unlimited account with them, which can make getting necessary deliveries cheap or even free.
If you can afford to put a little money behind your help, here’s what you can do
1. Donate to organizations the provide aid to those who need it
BuzzFeed put together this great list of organizations that can use your time and money.
2. Offer groceries to friends who are out of work
There are plenty of Americans who are without work and without a paycheck. If you can afford to help out your neighbor, friend, or family member, consider buying them a grocery store gift card or helping them cover utility bills, Internet bills, and the like.