Activism groups worldwide have been greatly affected by the social distancing measures that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic; they are adapting relatively quickly to this new reality, as we have seen with the April 3rd virtual climate strike (read Valentina’s article here if you haven’t already!).
However, climate justice isn’t the only activist movement that has been faced with challenges in terms of having to adopt new volunteering strategies so as to continue functioning amid this international crisis.
I’m a social media volunteer for an organization called Animal Care Zone (ACZ). They are based in Toronto, but they work in partnership with animal “homes” in India (among other places) to provide “care zones” for stray animals. They help in funding first aid treatments, spaying and neutering initiatives, and feeding drives, among the provision of other essential services to the huge stray population, which includes cows, cats, dogs, etc.
Meghavi Patel, ACZ’s founder, told me that luckily, the volunteers they work with have been able to continue their efforts by taking extra safety measures, such as wearing gloves and masks. Additionally, since their stray population is so large, India has an ambulance service people can call if they see an injured stray. Usually, there are two people in the ambulance (one driver and one “catcher”); now, they are managing with only one volunteer per ambulance to maximize social distancing precautions. However, one problem they have been faced with is with the Indian police, who are patrolling the streets and telling regular stray feeders to stay home.
“Some people who can’t talk back to the cops or are uncomfortable to talk back to them are going with their parents,” she clarified, “but I do believe feeding drives are still continuing.”
This is a perfect example of how various volunteers have been faced with new challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are not letting these challenges affect their work.
Another example is with Rainier Popup Kitchen, a soup kitchen in Washington State. They also had to modify their volunteering strategies, as they work in close contact with elderly people, one of the most at-risk groups and for whom COVID-19 could be fatal.
Volunteers over 60 were told to stay home, and as were those experiencing flu-like symptoms. To avoid any gatherings, no tables or chairs were set up. Instead, low-risk volunteers filled over 100 bags with sandwiches, fruits, water bottles, vitamin C packets, and pamphlets explaining how to help limit the virus’ spread; regulars could just pick up a bag and leave.
While staying open to help those in need, by changing their soup kitchen’s setup to minimize the number of people gathered there at once, and by adding informational pamphlets to individual pre-prepared bags, this soup kitchen is certainly helping to “flatten the curve”.
So, as much as volunteers are needed now more than ever, activism groups have nonetheless found various ingenious ways to continue their crucial work with little interruption, thus overcoming obstacles and proving their inspiring adaptability skills to the world.
Thank you to everyone who is volunteering during these dire times, and to everyone who is doing their part in the international attempt to “flattening the curve”, even if all you are doing is staying home when you would much rather hang out with friends!
By Sophie Dufresne