How students can help local communities as volunteers during coronavirus pandemic

It was almost a month ago now when the Wijnhaven was closed and lectures were canceled. Since then many have left the Netherlands, and many have stayed. The new friends we made in The Hague are spread out again all over the Netherlands, Europe, the globe. The CIROS community is dispersed all over the world. Yet, we are all in the same situation – or most of us at least. We are sitting at home – some anxiously and some simply bored – waiting for this pandemic to be over. We are waiting to be able to finally return to The Hague and be reunited at Wijnhaven. 

COVID-19 has seemingly taken over the world. Not a single day has passed since March on which the coronavirus has not dominated the news. Yet, many questions remain unanswered as more and more challenges related to the pandemic arise: How can we protect individuals vulnerable to domestic violence during times of self-isolation? Who is taking care of the homeless? What can be done to ensure that our grandmas and grandpas survive this crisis so that we can hug them once more?

However, this is also the time of ever-growing solidarity among neighbors, of willingness to step up and protect the most vulnerable and of exceptional individuals with amazing ideas. Are you tired of staying at home and waiting for politicians to solve these complex problems? Do you want to support risk groups in your local communities? Here are some inspiring stories and experiences of students taking on responsibility to make a change. 

Stay strong and stay apart for those who are closest to you

Quaranteen – students shop groceries for elderly in German city

This initiative was actually founded by three engaged students enrolled at Heidelberg University. When I called my dear friend Sophie (19) on Sunday morning, I was stunned to hear that she had the idea during predrinks in March. The concept is very simple: 160 volunteers organize themselves in Whatsapp groups for each borough and provide assistance with groceries for the elderly inhabitants of the neighborhood. To promote the service, they spoke to the municipality, wrote newspaper articles and distributed 20,000 (!) flyers in mailboxes all over the city. Now, they are receiving calls every day from citizens asking for help on their very own hotline. 

Local communities growing closer together

Are you wondering too how they managed to build up such an amazing support system in less than a month? I most definitely was, but Sophie had an explanation for that as well. After she had moved into a flat with the co-founders of Quaranteen specifically for that project, she was amazed by the support they received from the local community. A copyshop was willing to print 16,000 of the flyers for only 120€. On top of that, a Chinese restaurant is donating 15 daily meals as well to show their support. Their brand name is even protected now thanks to the efforts of an attorney working without charging fees. One could say that this small city has moved together a little closer. 

Get in touch with Quaranteen

Nonetheless, this is not enough for Sophie. Currently, they are setting up contracts and a website to branch out to other cities. According to her, the ultimate goal would be to transform Quaranteen into a national support system. Are you originally from Germany and have returned to your home country? On this website you can read more about the project and even get in touch with the organizers to start a new branch. 

Michael Allers, Ella von Arnim and Sophie Tiefenbacher – the founders of Quaranteen

How students can get engaged in the Netherlands

Did you stay in The Hague? Are you inspired to contribute to our beautiful city as well? Here are some equally as great initiatives, where students can truly make an impact. 

Rode Kruis – the Dutch Red Cross

The website of the Rode Kruis makes volunteering incredibly easy. Here you can simply fill in a form to join the volunteer program and be informed when help is needed. 

Buddy Netwerk – sign up as a buddy to support those most vulnerable.

This network is an ongoing project to support different groups such as the elderly or those with disabilities with assistance. This work becomes even more important during times of a global pandemic. Therefore, why don’t you visit the website for more (Dutch) information and maybe even fill out a form with your contact details and with which vulnerable group you are most proficient with to get in touch?

Become a volunteer all over the world 

As many of us have returned to our home countries, these projects will not help them much. However, here is a small list of further projects where students can contribute to their local communities in rough times:

  • Help the British health care system overcome this pandemic: https://www.nationalcareforce.co.uk (UK)
  • Ensure the food supply of fresh vegetables and earn money as harvest hand while guest workers from Eastern Europe cannot enter the country: https://bauersuchthilfe.de (Germany)
  • Donate food, cleaning utensils and personal hygiene products to the Casa do Bom Samaritano for the most vulnerable (Brazil). 

How to find the right initiative

This is still not the right initiative for you? Here are some suggestions to get involved in your hometown.

  • Ask your local soup kitchens or homeless shelters if they need help.
  • Do the women’s shelters have enough volunteers? With rising rates of domestic violence during this pandemic, supporting shelters can save lives. 
  • Connect through Facebook groups to find out where volunteers are needed.
  • Offer to your elderly neighbors to do the groceries for them. Sometimes it helps to ask them directly as many are too shy to ask for help.
  • Become a blood donor in times where everybody seems to forget about the chronically ill patients depending on blood donations.

Tell us your story!

Are you part of a great project that we haven’t mentioned? Do you want to share your story or idea of what could be done additionally? We care about you and your experiences and would love to hear about what we might have forgotten in this article. Reach out to us via goodwill@cirosthehague.com and tell us your story!

An article written by Lara Schade

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