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Coronavirus: How You Can Help Others

Maya Ackerman
Mar 18 · 4 min read

How to reach out a helping hand during a time of social isolation

I grew up listening to war stories. My grandparents include a child Holocaust survivor, a teenage soldier fighting the Nazis, and an orphan left to care for younger siblings. Hunger and disease all around, with no financial resources, my grandparents were left to fend for themselves and others in the worst of circumstances.

Throughout their stories of unfathomable hardship, there were many little stories of kindness, often from complete strangers. A stranger shared their meal. Someone gave a helpful tip. Someone else donated a warm jacket. Another shared a piece of bread. This is how they survived: One small act of kindness at a time.

COVID-19 took us by surprise. We are not sure what to expect. We are doing our best to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We are hoping and praying that this will all be over in a few weeks and things can go back to normal. Meanwhile, everything from birthday parties to international conferences are getting cancelled. Jobs and schools are moving online. Nothing is the same.

But one thing is for sure: Many of us are hurting. Really hurting. I am talking about those who are currently in ICU units fighting for their lives. I am talking about those who have lost their jobs, and don’t have savings to fall back on. The coronavirus is destroying lives, literally and metaphorically. We must not be idle bystanders.

So, what can we do? Inspired by the memory of my grandparents, I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to make a difference while on mandatory lockdown here in Silicon Valley. So, I’ve decided to share my Coronavirus to-do list.

Here are some ideas on what we can do to help others in these uncertain times. Please feel free to suggest other ideas in the comments below!

  1. Make a small donation to a relief organization

If your livelihood has not been impacted by the coronavirus, please consider making a small donation to a credible relief organization. Nonprofit organizations get most of their funding from regular people making small donations. Even $5 makes a real difference.

Local food banks are an excellent choice. If you’re not sure where to donate, here are 4 organizations that are making a difference during this crisis:

- Feeding america:
- Meals on wheels:
- CDC foundation:
- Center for disaster philanthropy:

2. Support hourly workers and small businesses (things you can do)

During the coronavirus, many of us no longer need services such as dog walking, cleaning, or nanny services. But, hourly workers really need their income right now, and many have found themselves in terrible financial situations. If it is financially feasible for you, keep paying the people whose help you normally need, despite not using their services right now. This will help them put food on the table in these difficult times.

Another way you can help is to get a gift card from your favorite small businesses that are currently affected, such as your favorite restaurant or massage place. You can then use the service when things get back to normal. This is a powerful way to support your favorite small businesses when they are hurting the most.

3. Call people who are living alone

Lockdown, mandatory or voluntary, is a lot more difficult if there is no one around. I know that I would be having a much more difficult time if I didn’t have my husband and child right here with me. It’s easy and it’s free: Pick up the phone or your favorite video chat app, and call people who are now by themselves. It might seem small, but this will be a huge help for them.

4. Share important information with others

This one is really simple, but also very important. If you know something that can help others, share that information. Post it on social media, but also contact people individually to make sure that they get the message.

The situation is unstable, and things are changing quickly. Make sure that your friends and family know what’s going on. I was surprised how many people, who are generally very well informed, were missing key information on how to best protect themselves from the virus (where to get food, what’s allowed under the lockdown here in the SF Bay Area, etc.) A little bit of information in a difficult situation can be worth more than gold (for example, a small tip saved my grandmother’s life during WWII). Just please make sure that the information is valid before spreading it.

5. Be kind and patient with others

Many people are on edge right now, often with good reason. If you can, be extra patient. If someone is short or impatient, it’s probably not about you. They are just going through a hard time, or emotionally struggling to deal with all the change. Try to be there for people even, and perhaps especially, if they are on edge.

6. Encourage others to help

Each one of us can only do so much. The real power is in our joint efforts: If we all do a little bit, the impact will be enormous. Encourage your friends and family to help others as they are willing and able. Or, simply tell them what you’re doing to help. This is uncharted waters, and we are all taking cues from each other on what we should be doing. Your small acts of kindness can have a massive ripple effect.

This is a rapidly evolving situation. Tomorrow, there might be other critical ways that we can be helpful. Please share any thoughts or ideas in the comments below.

We are all in this together. Stay strong, take care of yourself, and, if you can, help out a few other people along the way.

With deepest hope for a speedy return to more normal times.

Your truly,

Maya Ackerman

Written by

Santa Clara University Professor and CEO/Co-founder of WaveAI

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