EngagePerspectivesMaintaining the Distance, Yet Staying Connected During COVID-19
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Maintaining the Distance, Yet Staying Connected During COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has been an unprecedented time in history. Paradoxically, although many of us are still not comfortable leaving our houses, more people than ever are in need of assistance in wake of the global pandemic. This leads us to ask the question: How can we still engage in service while staying safe from COVID-19?

Person carrying a box of ingredients.
Give Your Time

Over the summer, I took an internship position as a writer for The Borgen Project, a non-profit organization that brings awareness to issues of poverty and injustice through a combination of their article posts and advocating for specific bills. Initially, applying for a remote internship seemed like a nice alternative to working in the confines of an office. However, little did I know that this remote quality would become a necessity to navigate the world state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In accordance with the Borgen Project’s initiative to operate on the political level, one of the primary roles of my internship was to contact my local Congress members. Contacting Congress can seem like a daunting task. However, it took, on average, ten minutes each week. It was as simple as calling, introducing myself as an advocate of the Borgen Project, and requesting that they support my bill. Additionally, the organization provided interns with a template to email the representatives on behalf of these bills. Each intern was then required to mobilize 20 other individuals to send this same email to their own representatives. With 1000 interns, emailing two congress members over 12 weeks, and mobilizing 20 people to do the same, it equated to roughly 960,000 calls on behalf of the Borgen Project. Statistics show that as little as 7-10 calls on behalf of a bill can persuade a Congress member to support it. So while I began my internship being vaguely familiar with my local constituents, I was in contact with them several times a week by the end of my time with the organization. The Borgen Project taught me that civic service can be as simple as giving a small time commitment to a cause that you are passionate about.

Raise Money

Additionally, through the Borgen Project, I had the opportunity to start my first fundraiser from the safety of my own home. At the start of the internship, we each had to create a virtual campaign page and set a goal of the amount of money that we aimed to raise by the end of our time with the organization. My goal was 500 dollars. I was nervous because, generally, I had seen people fundraise through interacting in person with their potential donors. However, this was not an option for me due to the pandemic. Luckily, the Borgen Project gave us an alternative to in-person interactions by sending out letters–Yes. A letter in 2020!. In the age of text messages and emails, crafting these personal letters for each potential donor felt antiquated. However, my internship explained that these letters demonstrated effort and personalization that a text could not convey. This proved to be true because through asking 15 donors to support “the Kira Lucas tribe,” I ended up exceeding my goal by raising a total of 675 dollars.

Stay Connected

Over the summer, Paideia fellow, Derek Nhieu, made an effort to stay connected to organizations he worked with while on campus, such as the Pennsylvania District of Circle K International (PACK for short). Nhieu writes, “PACK is the world’s largest collegiate student-led service organization. It’s an honor to have been serving as the PACK District Governor since the beginning of April. I’ve primarily worked on planning year-long service projects and initiatives such as our Environmental Protection district service project and the WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) Project/Governor’s Challenge. I’ve also been supporting clubs over the summer, as well as preparing them for their fall semesters.” His experience serves as a prime example that it is possible to stay connected to organizations even amidst quarantine.  

Get Creative!

Many organizations have had to adjust the methods that they carry out services that would typically be offered in person. Due to this, several websiteshave created lists of innovative ways to complete service during the coronavirus. Here are 19 ways that you can serve while social distancing during COVID-19:

  1. Send thank you cards to front line workers.
  2. Sew masks for frontline workers.
  3. File a records requestto help ensure governmental transparency.
  4. Start an online petition about a cause you are passionate about.
  5. Adopt a “grandfriend.”
  6. Volunteer to read to those who are visually impaired over the phone.
  7. Play video games that donate to global poverty.
  8. Volunteer to tutor a child in need through Zoom.
  9. Donate to Your Local Food Bank.
  10. Support local businesses by ordering food.
  11. Give an online donation to an organization you are passionate about.
  12. Donate newspapers to a local animal shelter.
  13. Donate old clothes to your local homeless shelter.
  14. Write thank you letters to deployed troops through Operation Gratitude.
  15. Organize a social media campaign about a cause you are interested in.
  16. Clean up trash in your local park.
  17. Become a volunteer counselor for theCrisis Text Hotline.
  18. Promote pets in shelters on social media to help them find a home.
  19. Donate to your city’s COVID-19 response fund.

I hope that this has served as encouragement that although being in quarantine poses its challenges, civic service can still be completed in its midst. It may require a little creativity or perhaps stepping outside of your comfort zone. However, it is certainly possible and rewarding to continue to serve vulnerable populations, from the comfort of your own home.  

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