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Stay Home & Do Good: How To Volunteer During The May Holidays

Have you been repeating the coronavirus refrain, “We’re all in this together?” In truth, the popular Thai slogan “Same same, but different” is probably a more fitting description:

“For some, this is a time of grand inconvenience, of undoubted stress, of a self-evident loss of freedom. For others, this is both a national and personal disaster, a present defined by turmoil and of futures snatched away.” (Source: The Guardian)

If your family has been fortunate enough to weather the storm of Covid-19, this is the time to step up and help out. The upcoming May holidays will be stripped bare of vacation pleasures — such as trips abroad, play dates, enrichment courses, and time spent outdoors. But we can still lead our best lives at home, by supporting those in need. 

Here’s how you and your children can do good during this time.

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Check In On Those You Know

Talk to your children about how social distancing measures might affect those around you. Are some of your elderly loved ones living alone? Do you know someone coping with mental health issues? Is anyone in your social circle (such as your child’s tutors and enrichment coaches) struggling with financial insecurity? Do your children have friends who are alone at home because their parents are working in essential services? As a family, think of a list of people to text or call, how often to reach out, what to say, and how to offer help, if needed.

If you have friendly relations with your neighbours, you can start a “neighbourhood pod” initiative, where you leave your neighbours an open invite to form a WhatsApp support group together, either at their doors, or in their mailboxes. It’s a way to help one another through any challenging situations that may crop up in the home during this time.

Taking a cue from what many grown-ups have been doing, your children can compile a “boredom busters” list of their favourite resources for fun and learning, to share with their friends at the start of the May holidays. They could do this via a blog post or on a text document, which you can convert to a shareable file.

Support A Cause That Moves You

Covid-19 has forced us to confront our human vulnerabilities, and at the same time, more of us are now aware of the plight of marginalised groups such as low-income families, migrant workers, and the homeless. A mother who works at a local charity recommends this litmus test for deciding on causes to support:

“There must be something that creates an inner unease, that makes you think ‘That’s not right!’ or moves you when you read about it. Try and list five right now — GO!”

She also notes that while volunteering can be a fulfilling experience, we “should not depend on personal gratification as a core reason to stay involved. The commitment has to come from a deeper place.” Let the focus remain on those you’re interested to help, and you’ll be able to overlook some of the roadblocks you may encounter along the way, such as inefficient communications and wasted efforts.

For a start, your family can browse on Giving.sg to find helping opportunities. Not all their posted listings have been updated with social-distancing measures in place, but there are enough avenues to safely offer help as a family, such as:

To be proactive, contact organisations directly to find out if they have efforts that you can assist with. This is something that your older children can help with too.

Another invaluable resource during this time is AidHub, where you can search for local Covid-19 initiatives by the types of causes that you’re interested in, or by the help that you’re able to render.

Set Aside Funds For Donations

If you’ve been ordering bubble tea regularly, but are now unable to because of tightened distancing measures, you’re probably saving an amount that can be put towards helping others. Many families have also found themselves spending less lately due to cancelled classes and activities — you can decide to channel these funds towards a good cause. 

Even if Covid-19 eventually slides into oblivion, the problems of inequality will remain. To have more social impact, narrow your focus to two or three organisations that you believe in, and commit to a longer-term donation plan. As a family, talk about how much you are able to give each month going forward, and what lifestyle changes you’re willing to make to support your sustained giving efforts. For instance, cutting down on one dining-out experience per month could give you about S$50 to help a charity with.

If you’re donating to an international charity, use a watchdog site such as Charity Navigator to assess their credibility and accountability. In Singapore, you can look for registered charities on the government-run Charity Portal.

Spot A Problem? Don’t Wait For Someone To Solve It

In several schools, small groups of parents have galvanised others to give generously, to provide tide-over sums to canteen vendors who’ve been forced to shut down for at least two months. Others have turned making masks and hand sanitisers for vulnerable groups into a family effort.

Similarly, if your family sees a need, take the lead to find a solution, and spread the word about what you’re doing, so that others can join in. To keep up with what’s happening locally, you can now read the local papers for free during the “circuit breaker” period. If you or your children have Facebook accounts, follow community-run organisations such as Homeless Hearts of SG, Engineering Good, and ItsRainingRaincoats and respond to their calls for help if you can.

Speak Up Against Misinformation & Hate

This is a time of information overload, and misinformation is everywhere. Talk to your children about fake news, and gently correct loved ones if they share misleading or unverified information. You can teach children to use the National Library Board’s S.U.R.E mental model to assess information:

  • S for Source: Where did this news come from? Is the source credible? Is there a sponsor involved?
  • U for Understand: Do you understand what you’re reading?
  • R for Research: Can you find out more from another source?
  • E for Evaluate: Is the information backed up by facts or research? Does it present a range of views?

It’s also a time where people are scared, frustrated, and angry, and you may encounter prejudicial comments, even by loved ones. When this happens, one question you can ask is, “Why do you think that?” Try to use facts and experiences as a counter, but bear in mind that people don’t change their minds overnight, and some may never change their minds at all.

How should you talk to your children about prejudice? According to US-based social justice organisation Cultures of Dignity, you can say this:

“When things happen like this virus, it’s common for a group of people to be blamed…

I am asking you to think about… a small action you can take to make clear to the people around you that you don’t support or agree with these jokes or comments. You can be clear with the person who is the target of these comments that you don’t agree and you will support them.” 

Find Creative Ways To Spread Positivity

Every day, look out for stories involving goodwill, and share them with the family. All over the world, people have left generous tips and thank you notes for restaurants and food delivery personnel, bought dinners for supermarket staff, and used their talents to raise funds for coronavirus relief and research efforts. Others are sharing their skills for free online, or helping to organise community efforts so that they are more efficient and effective.

Don’t be intimidated by what’s already happening out there — there’s room for everyone. Think about what you and your family can do, no matter how small, and get started!

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