Some Victoria residents are offering to help the community’s more vulnerable members amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Friends Melia Parker and Morganne Bemister posted their offer in online classifieds. “We want to provide volunteer assistance to the elderly, those with weakened immune systems and their caregivers who are concerned about going out into the public for health reasons,” they wrote in the ad.
Parker said the two wanted to do something to help people who might be worried about being in crowded spaces, especially if the number of cases increases on the Island.
There are eight confirmed cases in the Island Health region, and more than 100 in the province as of Monday morning.
Parker said they haven’t had any requests for help since the post went live, but have been contacted by others who also want to offer their assistance. “That’s been kind of inspiring to know that if or when people need help, your neighbours are there for you,” she said. “Maybe we should be like that if there isn’t a pandemic. Maybe there shouldn’t have to be a big scary illness for people to do this.”
It’s a similar situation in a Facebook group set up to connect those who need help with people offering it. Sally Lin, a moderator of COVID-19 Coming Together, said they’ve seen almost double the number of offers for support than there are requests.
“Requests are being filled really quickly. Definitely within the same day, if not within a few hours,” she said.
The group grew to more than 1,600 members in less than 10 hours after it was created, and had nearly 4,000 members on Monday. People have posted to offer grocery delivery, prescription refills, dog walking, child care and meal preparation.
Lin, who has a masters in public health, has delivered toilet paper and soap to someone putting together packages for Songhees elders. She dropped it off outside the person’s home in order to minimize contact.
Lin suggested those who need help but aren’t on the social-media platform can ask someone else to post to the group on their behalf. Group members have also created neighbourhood pods to localize support.
Catherine Turnbull started a group for Fernwood residents, who can fill out a Google document to share their contact information and identify how they’re able to provide support.
Turnbull said there haven’t been a lot of requests for help yet, but she anticipates there will be more need in the coming days and weeks. “This is a great opportunity to build community even though we’re practising social distancing and practising social isolation,” she said.
Vicky Pilot, executive director of Seniors Serving Seniors, said it’s great that community groups are forming to provide help to the most vulnerable. She said one of the main concerns for seniors during the crisis is a lack of social interaction.
“I think people checking in on people will be really helpful,” she said. “There’s definitely value there, as long as everybody is following public-health advice.”