Volunteering is a proven method of combating depression and anxiety — things many of us are feeling these days with COVID-19, quarantine, and our still-unknown new normal. Accessing opportunities from your living room is easier than you may think. Here are ways to feel connected and lend a helping hand while still social distancing.
Call a senior There are many organizations that pair volunteers with senior citizens to provide reminders, check-ins, and just a friendly “hello” on a regular basis. In Boston, FriendshipWorks’ is currently recruiting digital volunteers for video and phone chats with older folks in their community. In the light of COVID-19, their required training is now offered remote, and services come at no cost to participating seniors. fw4elders.org
Or write them Likewise, nonprofit Love for the Elderly is recruiting volunteers to create cards and notes, which are especially needed now that most senior communities have closed to visitors. Mail your letters to Love for the Elderly’s team, and they will distribute your handmade effort to nursing homes, hospices, and the like. It’s an ideal way to keep idle hands busy on a Saturday night — whether your volunteer team is a pack of toddlers or just you and your cat. lovefortheelderly.org/letters
Lend an ear 7 Cups deems itself the “world’s largest emotional support system” lending a free ear, 24/7, through their app and website. Volunteers are trained as an Active Listener — meaning: no judgment, no criticism, no advice-giving — before connecting with users-in-need via chat. In the sign-up process, you can choose topics you feel comfortable discussing (ranging from PTSD to breakups to eating disorders) while also identifying those that may trigger or discomfort you. 7cups.com
Support the UN The United Nations Volunteers program connects remote participants with online opportunities. The current listings board is flush with international ad hoc projects for digital creatives, researchers, and computer specialists — like, providing COVID-19 graphic support in Cameroon and social media management in Lebanon. Organizations are then able to sift through applicants and pick the candidate they believe best suits their needs. It’s not a quick-hit volunteering opportunity, but each role is vetted by the UN to uphold its mission for peace and sustainability around the world. onlinevolunteering.org
Share your sight Volunteers with Be My Eyes provide sight support for the vision impaired via a free app. The program pairs blind or low-vision individuals with a partner to help them read, explore their surroundings, and complete other everyday and new tasks (think: reading expiration dates on food or helping a new knitter learn to do a purl stitch) through a live 1-on-1 video. The micro-volunteering program operates on an “on-call” schedule; the app pings a group of volunteers each time a new request rolls in — the first to accept gets the assignment. bemyeyes.com
Use your language skills If you’re fluent in languages beyond your native tongue, Translators Without Borders recruits digital volunteers to help with crisis and medical translation needs. Their Rapid Response Team supports a range of vital project requests, like translating video subtitles and leaflets, many involving spreading COVID-19 education and awareness to wider communities in countries around the world. translatorswithoutborders.org/volunteer
Add a page to history The Smithsonian regularly takes on digital volunteers (or as they call them, “volunpeers”) to help transcribe and review data and documents for their collections. It’s a unique opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with rare texts, letters, and publications from the past — from artist Julio de Diego’s handwritten diary to astronaut Sally Ride’s aircraft checklist — to The Crisis, the NAACP’s official magazine from the early 20th century. Multiple volunpeers team up to complete each document, with some transcribing and some proofing, meaning you can hop in and out of projects of interest as your time opens up. transcription.si.edu
Rachel Raczka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.