Australian Volunteers International

July 31, 2020

The spirit of solidarity is alive

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of our lives, no matter where we live on Earth.  As we head towards 20 million cases worldwide, over 660,000 people have now tragically lost their lives from the virus. Those of us living in Melbourne face a worrying rise in cases and deaths as we limit our movements and wear a mask outside.

Throughout this crisis, it has been amazing and heartening to see so many people across the globe reaching out to one, giving their time and support in a spirit of solidarity – volunteering as we know it.

Recently, The Guardian reported that in Norway, a group of people recovered from COVID19 have begun providing services that would be dangerous for the non-immune. In Belgrade, volunteers have organised virtual coffee mornings and crisis counselling sessions. Students in Prague are babysitting the children of doctors and nurses and estates in Dublin have invented balcony bingo. For those wondering how this works, the caller sits in a square between the blocks of flats with a large speaker, while the players sit on their balconies, taking down the numbers.

In Latvia, programmers organised a 48-hour hackathon to design the lightest face shield components a 3D printer could produce. In the UK, thousands of mutual aid groups are collecting groceries and prescriptions, installing digital equipment for the elderly and setting up telephone friendship teams. A mothers’ running group in Bristol have even branded themselves ‘drug runners’, keeping fit while delivering medicines from pharmacies to people unable to leave their homes.

In Australia, despite a drop in formal volunteering by 90 per cent, new and informal means of volunteering have emerged, providing help to elderly, sick and vulnerable people disconnected from normal support networks and international students stranded without support.

We’ve seen it in mass movements like the Facebook ‘Adopt a Healthcare Worker’ initiative encouraging support for frontline health workers, shopping or cleaning their homes. We’ve also seen it in quieter moments like the note in my letterbox asking whether anyone in our street needed help.

As we continue to confront this crisis, it is reassuring to see and remember this spirit of solidarity through volunteering – the same indomitable force that founded AVI in 1951.