It is a difficult time right now, and for many a time of great anxiety as we watch the news around the coronavirus spread each day. The Student Volunteer Army started in response to a crisis, and that remains at its core today – being volunteers that appropriately respond to disasters is our bread and butter. I wanted to take some time to share advice with you on what you can do as a volunteer to make life easier and happier for vulnerable people in our communities at this time:

1. Help people who are anxious about the outbreak

Misinformation and the news generally can make everyone worry unnecessarily and feel overwhelmed. Helping yourself, your classmates and community feel less worried and overwhelmed is a really easy and caring way to respond to the outbreak. For the source of truth, refer only to the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation websites and try to limit your social media use. To help calm feelings of anxiety, you could teach a mindfulness or meditation workshop at lunchtime, or in the evening at home. The Ministry of Health also offers advice about looking after your mental health during the outbreak – check it out here.

2. Run a hand washing station

Hygiene is a huge part of containing the outbreak – although regular hand washing doesn’t stop the virus spreading altogether, it can help slow it down. Talk to your teacher and see if you can run a hand washing station at playtime, or at the school gates at the start and end of school. Remind people when they are washing their hands that they should avoid touching their face at all times. Have a read of this Spinoff article about how to stop the spread of the outbreak and share in your network.

3. Make uplifting messages for people in self isolation

Consider creating cheerful videos for people in self isolation – maybe doing a performance for them that might make them laugh, or write a letter to let them know you are thinking of them! What could make someone who is lonely feel better? Brainstorm with your classmates!

4. Babysit

Do you have experience babysitting? As our healthcare system gets busier, nurses, doctors and lots of other people will have to work more hours. This will be a bigger problem still if school closes down. If you have experience babysitting, spread the word – you could be a huge help! 

5. Assist vulnerable members of your community

Discuss with your whānau and identify who it is that you know in your community that will be most affected – disabled friends? Grandparents? Elderly neighbours? Try to decide together what these people need the most and what you can do to help them. This could look like:

  • Collecting and delivering post or food to a disabled friend who can’t leave the house because they have a weakened immune system or their carer can’t reach them
  • Teaching your grandparents how to grocery shop online in case they have to be isolated for a long period of time
  • Calling your elderly neighbour on the phone each day after school to ask how their day has been and check that they have everything they need

Head to the SVA Service Award Help Centre and print out the flyer below to fill out and post through letterboxes of people that might need help. Be very careful about close contact – these people are vulnerable to catching Coronavirus and could get especially sick if they do. Discuss with your whānau first if it is a good idea to spend time with the person one on one or to help them from a distance.

6. Apply to do advanced volunteering with SVA

If you are over 16, you can also apply to do more advanced volunteering as a part of the Student Volunteer Army. You can register your interest on the SVA website, at which point you will be screened for health issues and suitability. If you pass this stage, we will put you into a volunteer pool and match you with a volunteering opportunity if one arises. 

Remember that all time spent pandemic volunteering counts toward your next SVA Service Award level – so make sure to log those hours on the Service Award platform and get recognised for doing your bit!