How long have we been in quarantine? It’s hard to tell now, isn’t it? Days blend into weeks blend into months.
If, like me, you’re sick of sitting at home and watching front-line workers risk their lives day in, day out, you might be wondering how you can help. Hell, even if you can’t help with the immediate issues that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, wouldn’t it be nice to feel like we were helping someone, somewhere?
The good news is that even while we are all socially distant, there are quite literally hundreds of opportunities to do good from the safety of your home.
I understand that things are tough financially for many of us. That’s why I haven’t included any donation links in this list. Every cause I’ve listed can be donated to in terms of your time, skills and patience. From crafting for front line workers to monitoring webcams for scientific research and lending your sight for visually-impaired people, there are ways you can help without reaching into your wallet.
(Note that most of these organisations are either UK or internationally based.)
Got some spare time and an internet connection? That’s all you need to help these projects. If you don’t feel like interacting screen-to-screen with anyone, that’s okay too. I’ve marked the level of social interaction required for each of these.
- Level of interaction: high (text-based)
Training: required & provided
Category of help: mental health
Potentially emotionally draining. Only volunteer if you’re feeling up to it.
Volunteer to become a virtual texter at crisistextline.uk. After completing an online training course you will communicate with people in the UK experiencing a mental health crisis. As you can imagine, this service is in high demand at the moment.
- Level of interaction: high but not often (video-based)
Training: not required
Category of help: disability
Download the Be My Eyes app and you can volunteer to help blind and low-vision people when they need someone to describe something (such as food labelling, etc) to them.
- Level of interaction: none
Training: depends on task, instructions provided
Category of help: human rights
Potentially emotionally draining due to distressing content. Have a good read of the tasks before deciding which to undertake.
Help Amnesty expose and track human rights violations. Use your phone or computer to sift through documents, images and information.
- Level of interaction: high, text based
Training: required and provided
Category of help: mental health, advice and isolation
Potentially upsetting or emotionally draining. Only volunteer if you’re feeling up to it.
Volunteer and train to be an active listener at 7 cups, a site mostly aimed at younger people (though all ages are welcome) to discuss anything that’s on their mind. Topics can include LGBT issues, loneliness, mental health or general advice.
- Level of interaction: medium – weekly letter
Training: not required
Category of help: isolation, befriending
Write a letter to an isolated elderly person in a care home in the US once a week at Letters Against Isolation
- Level of interaction: high – calls, letters, emails
Training: not required
Category of help: isolation, befriending.
Adopt a grandparent! Share regular video calls, letters and emails with an isolated elderly person in a UK care home
Craft for a Cause
Calling all crocheters! Sew, knit and craft for charities and people in need.
- St. Michael’s hospice need syringe bags! These allow patients undergoing treatment to be able to move around more freely.
- Make wash bags for face masks so that they don’t get lost or torn in washing machines.
- Speaking of face-masks, here’s a guide to making Olson-style masks
- Good Housekeeping has another guide to making facemasks at home with a sewing machine.
- An easy craft: DIY ear-savers for face masks take the strain off the wearer’s ears.
- Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice need wheelchair bags so that kids can keep their personal belongings with them while they move around.
- Little Dresses for Africa are looking for people to make clothing from pillowcases to help the poorest kids in Africa.
Knitting and Crochet
- Create blankets for babies in need (foster kids, refugees, etc.) at Project Linus
- The Big Knit is still ongoing! Knit little hats for innocent bottles and they will donate money for Age UK.
- Knit and crochet toys and blankets for stillborn babies at Cuddles UK
- Knitted Knockers are looking for volunteers to knit and crochet prosthetic breasts for women who have lost theirs due to breast cancer. They are currently not taking donations while the pandemic is ongoing but will be open to donations once the lockdown is lifted.
- Knit toys and blankets for the kittens in the care of Cats Protection
Share the Knowledge, Improve the Knowledge
Donate your time for science! Improve understanding of animal behaviour, help discover and track supermassive black holes, watch a webcam of raccoons doing raccoon stuff… who says only scientists can contribute to science?
Image Tagging/Cam Watch
Sit back, flick through some images and describe what you see.
- The Smithsonian are looking for volunteers to help describe the images in their Archive of American Gardens. Take a trip around the states from home!
- Help the Zoological Society of London by monitoring trail cams and tagging animals/behaviours you see.
- Project Plumage – help categorise bird specimens and improve our understanding of bird plumage and its evolution.
- Watch burrowing owls and help with their conservation.
- Count penguins! For science!
- Identify rural homes in Africa from satellite images so that they can have electrical power brought to them.
- Help trace maps from satellite imagery of remote and disaster-struck areas so that first-responders can navigate them quickly.
- Take psychological tests and contribute to Project Implicit’s database. Help break down stereotypes in psychology.
- Help astronomers locate supermassive black holes.
- Help identify and classify manatee calls.
- Take part in the City Nature Challenge and log the wildlife in your area.
- Transcribe scanned historical documents for The Smithsonian
- Transcribe scanned historical documents for Ancestry.org
- Transcribe PDFs for humanitarian workers
- Transcribe old weather reports from Africa to help climate scientists
- Transcribe hand-written bird-watching records from London
- Proofread books for Project Gutenberg
- Fluent in more than one language? Translators Without Borders are looking for volunteers.
Know of more virtual volunteering opportunities? Visit me on Twitter @grumpwitch and let me know! I’ll be continually adding to the list.
If you want, you can buy me a coffee/tea (it’ll be tea) here. No pressure! It’s quarantine, baby!