Sunday, March 29, 2020

Volunteer in Place

There is a huge untapped resource for combatting COVID-19, and it is growing just as fast as the pandemic. I am referring to the shut-ins, like me, who suddenly find ourselves with time to occupy while home alone that previously we would have spent in company or out in public at work or play.

This has been very frustrating, not only because of the loss of personal opportunities, but also because it inhibits reaching out to help people who have been even more adversely affected by the virus’s medical and nonmedical effects. So far the way not to feel completely useless has been to consider that “We also serve who only stand and wait.” By sheltering in place and without guests we not only protect ourselves but also others whom we might infect if we happened to be carrying the virus without symptoms. Furthermore, even in protecting only ourselves, we free up hospital personnel and beds and ventilators for others.

But this is not very emotionally satisfying, and anyway there is much more that we could be doing even in our constrained situation. And not only for victims of this virus but for people having other needs that pre-existed it, since the world’s woes are beyond counting and more pervasive than even the coronavirus. And there are not only people and other animals suffering and dying now but also those whose pain or death might be prevented by timely interventions.

So suddenly it occurs to me that many of the people and causes we already assist by volunteer work of various kinds can still be helped, sometimes in the same ways, sometimes by innovative means, even though direct physical contact with others may be blocked, and in some cases even more effectively than before the pandemic.

That is because, first as noted, so many of us now have some extra time on our hands. But second, because the present crisis suggests technological applications and innovations to increase our capacity to help.

Thus, I can’t help but wonder if some kind of crowdsourcing could assist in the critical mapping of the virus’s spread. The scientific community has been training citizen scientists to analyze data online for years.

At a less exotic yet still highly effective level, a simple Volunteer at Home app could be developed that links any computer or smartphone user to organizations in one’s own community that could use your help from home, perhaps via that same computer or smartphone. And I’m sure many nonprofits would appreciate technical help with providing their clients and volunteers with new interactive capabilities. The possibilities seem limitless.

Needless to say, this kind of work … both developing such software and the rest of us utilizing it, as well as, of course, countless “low tech” ways of helping others elsewhere while we stay at home … has its rewards for the volunteer too, and the benefits for all could last well beyond the present pandemic.

Why just shelter in place when you could also volunteer in place (VIP)? Be a COVID-19 VIP!

Things you can do to help from home

This is a work in progress. I only got the idea today -- March 28, 2020. What I will now do is begin to contact nonprofit organizations to see if they have the kind of needs I described in the introductory post above. But, as I work on this more (this is now a few days later), I realize that what is essential is the simple idea itself: to help others remotely from one's home.

The "VIP" acronym is a catchy way to think about this and spread the word, but of course there are countless COVID-19 Very Important Persons out there who are not at home! They are all on the front lines if they are venturing forth, and many are downright heroes. But those of us who must stay home for one reason or another, or are advised to stay home, and, I must add, are fortunate enough to have a home to stay in, and also fortunate enough to have an income source that allows us some discretionary time, can also contribute our time and effort to helping out (in addition to making monetary donations if we are able). That is the idea I am trying to convey. Under the bizarre circumstances of our Brave New COVID-19 World, there could be a huge number of people in that kind of situation who are therefore potential Volunteers In Place.

With this idea in hand (or mind), each such person might do any of a number of things. For example:

Begin some private initiative at home, such as the person who began making masks to deliver or send to medical personnel.

Contact an organization whose work you are involved in or care about to see if they offer some kind of opportunity to help out from home. And if they don't, urge them to consider developing such an opportunity.

Set up (host, curate) a local covid19vip site in your own community. (Of course national and international organizations could also be listed on community sites.) Thus, click here to see the one I've set up for my community (which could be used as a template). Then contact me at jmarks AT newhaven DOT edu so that I can link to it from this global site.

If you have better computer skills than I, create an app for this site, or for your local VIP site. Or create software for those organizations that don’t yet offer remote opportunities so that they could take advantage of volunteers at home. As I suggested in the post above, this could turn out to be a permanent expansion of some organizations' effectiveness even beyond the virus's duration.

By the way, there must be others who have had the idea for a clearinghouse along these lines. A quick check on Google took me here, for example. Bravo! I'd just like to see this sort of thing become enlisted and widely known to help deal with our new circumstances. From this ordeal are coming countless opportunities for us to help one another.


PLEASE CONTACT THE CURATOR AT EACH LOCAL SITE IF YOU ARE A NONPROFIT THAT WOULD LIKE TO BE LISTED. PLEASE CONTACT ME AT jmarks AT newhaven DOT edu IF YOU HAVE A SITE YOU WOULD LIKE ME TO LINK TO FROM THIS GLOBAL SITE OR YOU HAVE ANY OTHER IDEAS OR ASSISTANCE TO OFFER THE VIP PROJECT. THANK YOU AND BE WELL. -- Joel Marks


Local sites listing examples of nonprofit organizations whose work you can help from home:

NEW HAVEN and environs in Connecticut, USA

UNITED STATES (and WORLD)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Examples of national and international nonprofits that offer opportunities to volunteer from home

PLEASE CONTACT ME AT jmarks AT newhaven DOT edu IF YOU ARE A NONPROFIT THAT WOULD LIKE TO BE LISTED HERE, OR IF YOU CAN SUGGEST ONE OR HAVE ANY OTHER IDEAS OR ASSISTANCE TO OFFER THE VIP PROJECT. THANK YOU AND BE WELL.
Thank you!-- Joel Marks


Organize a community aid group. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is offering the opportunity to organize a mutual aid group online in your community.


Help your local animal shelters/rescues. Contact them directly to find out their urgent requirements. Many post wish lists on social media and their websites. Share their social media posts to spread the word about critical items they need to take care of an influx of animals due to increased pet surrenders. Most items can be ordered online and shipped directly to them. (suggested by Annie Hornish at humanesociety.org)


Help save the night sky. Become a citizen scientist and help preserve one of our natural treasures at
  Globe at Night. (suggested by Viveca Morris)