How To Give It – coronavirus special

Seven simple ways to help others during the Covid-19 pandemic

Citymeals on Wheels board member Derek Blasberg delivering emergency meals to his elderly neighbours in Manhattan
Citymeals on Wheels board member Derek Blasberg delivering emergency meals to his elderly neighbours in Manhattan | Image: Courtesy of Citymeals on Wheels

Help the elderly

Age UK has noticed a 30 per cent increase in attempts to reach its advice line, while calls to The Silver Line, a helpline and friendship service, have risen by 40 per cent. Many organisations have launched emergency appeals in order to cope with the demand. Despite the pandemic, Meals on Wheels and Citymeals are still delivering food to America’s older citizens, and in France, elderly-support charity Petits Frères des Pauvres has strengthened its helpline so that it can accommodate more calls. Support can be offered via cash donations or, where possible, volunteer work.

Meals on Wheels America is providing meals to elderly US citizens affected by the coronavirus crisis
Meals on Wheels America is providing meals to elderly US citizens affected by the coronavirus crisis | Image: Courtesy of Meals on Wheels America

Protect the arts

As cultural institutions across the world fight for survival, support could be as simple as buying a membership to your local cinema or gallery, or pledging a donation, suggests a spokesperson from Arts Council England. There are also more targeted campaigns on platforms such as JustGiving and GoFundMe. The Turbine Theatre at Battersea Power Station has raised £51,000 for actors, creatives and ushers working in theatre, while music initiative Plus1 has launched a relief fund for musicians and industry workers affected by coronavirus, as well as those whose safety and wellbeing are at risk.  

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Give blood

Blood donations dropped by 15 per cent in the week before Britain’s lockdown, while the American Red Cross has estimated a loss of 46,000 donations due to coronavirus. With continued lockdowns, these numbers are set to rise. Giving blood, however, is considered essential travel, and health services are appealing for people to come forward as normal; extra hygiene measures are in place. “Combating the virus will take a huge national effort,” says Dr Gail Miflin, the chief medical officer for NHS Blood and Transplant. “Donating is something you can do to help. It’s also a reason to go outside and do something amazing.” blood.co.uk (UK). redcrossblood.org (US)

How To Spend It drinks columnist Alice Lascelles donating blood
How To Spend It drinks columnist Alice Lascelles donating blood | Image: Courtesy of Alice Lascelles

Support local restaurants and their staff

In the UK, about five million people work in retail, with a further 2.5 million in accommodation and food services. Many are at risk of losing their jobs. “If you’re locked in and you’re hungry, order a takeaway from a local business,” says Michael Sager, a London-based restaurant owner who has been fundraising to save his employees’ jobs in exchange for vouchers. “Right now we’re delivering wine and cocktails – anything to get a sale to be able to pay our staff.” “Any donation, however small, will really make a difference,” affirms Masha Rener, head chef at London’s Lina Stores of her campaign to provide freshly made pasta to hospitality staff who have lost their jobs. Industry-wide campaigns include those launched by Hospitality Action, Dining Bond Initiative and The James Beard Foundation.

Hospitality Action is one of many groups helping restaurant employees during the lockdown
Hospitality Action is one of many groups helping restaurant employees during the lockdown | Image: Courtesy of Hospitality Action

Find your local food bank

Food banks around the world have seen a dramatic rise in demand. Organisations like The Trussell Trust, Feeding America and Banco Alimentare allow volunteers to make a cash donation or find their local food bank online. “The resilience of food banks is nothing short of outstanding, and I know that wherever possible, volunteers will be working tirelessly to continue providing support to people unable to afford the essentials,” says Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust. “A crisis can often bring out the best in people, and we encourage everyone to carry on donating after checking with their local food bank which items are most needed.” 

A Trussell Trust food bank
A Trussell Trust food bank | Image: Courtesy of The Trussell Trust

Be neighbourly

Offering to pick up a neighbour’s shopping or medical supplies could really help the vulnerable. Nextdoor is an international platform that enables you to do this online. Users are connected through their immediate area, allowing them to chat, share concerns and, in a new feature, mark themselves as available to help people who aren’t able to leave their homes. “The number of groups created on Nextdoor in response to Covid-19 has doubled each day over the past week,” head of product Tatyana Mamut has said. “Every day, I see more groups forming: Parent Groups, Book Club Groups, Faith Groups. Even in this time when we are physically apart, we can still connect with our neighbours.”

Online platform Nextdoor allows you to offer help in your neighbourhood
Online platform Nextdoor allows you to offer help in your neighbourhood | Image: Courtesy of Nextdoor

Volunteer

After the NHS made its plea to the public for help with looking after the 1.5 million people in self-isolation, 405,000 volunteers came forward in 24 hours. Anyone over the age of 18 can now sign up to deliver shopping to the vulnerable, transport NHS supplies and drive patients to and from hospital. If leaving the house isn’t an option, you can also offer telephone support to individuals at risk of loneliness or donate to the NHS Charities COVID-19 Urgent Appeal. Organisations across the globe are looking for similar support, from the Florence division of the Italian Red Cross to social media groups such as Visible Hand in Poland.

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