While the coronavirus pandemic has seen some ugly moments so far, many Australians, and people all over the globe, are showing good will through acts of generosity and offering to help those in need.
Multiple online community groups have started across the country, and globally, to provide a forum for people to offer help, essential items or support to those hit hardest by the outbreak.
The groups are made up of ordinary people who are using the likes of Facebook and other social media platforms to lend a hand in their neighbourhoods.
“If any elderly person wants to do shopping, and couldn’t do because of this panic rush, I am a certified carer, I can help in their shopping,” one Melbourne resident wrote in the ‘Love Your Neighbour’ group.
“I really hate asking, but I’m disabled and unable to tackle the shopping centres regularly to get supplies … If anyone could spare a [toilet] roll or two, I’d seriously appreciate it,” one resident asked, prompting more than a dozen people to offer help.
“I’m free with a car to give anyone who requires a lift,” a woman offered in the Sydney-based ‘Covid-19 Inner West Mutual Aid’ group.
“Could anyone drop some adult Nurofen at my door? I’ve strained a muscle in my arm and the pain is terrible but I’m in self-isolation with bub,” one woman asked, and another quickly responded to help out.
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More than a dozen coronavirus help groups have blossomed across Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and more in recent days.
Jessica Gardner’s ‘Love Your Neighbour Melbourne’ group is one of the biggest, with more than 4700 members since it launched on March 13.
“It is about embodying the Aussie spirit of compassion and generosity. It is about helping others out in practical ways, and transforming our own fear in the process,” she told 10 daily.
The group shares helpful COVID-19 news articles, leads on where to find staple goods at the shops and offers of help, from car rides to cooking meals.
One member recently posted to offer to “sing a song over Skype,” to keep those in isolation company.
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“What is needed most is not toilet paper, it’s a sense of community,” Gardner said.
Gardner said she came up with the concept when a friend recently returned to Australia from South Korea and had to go into isolation.
“My daughter made and delivered a care package to her door within hours. This, and multiple conversations we’ve had with neighbours over the last few weeks, made me think about people in our community who are isolated and who may not have support and how essential this is,” she said.
“It is natural to be fearful but for me, I don’t want to live from that place, and I think love is always the greater and more powerful force at work in the world.”
Roj Amedi is the admin of the Northside Melbourne Coronavirus Outreach. She said the virus outbreak had “exposed gaps in Australia’s social welfare system”.
“Issues like this show we’re all interconnected, and things have reverberations on everyone around us,” she told 10 daily.
“We’ve been living in little social silos, but now we need people to reach out to their neighbours.”
The Northside group was also created March 13 and has more than 3000 members.
In it, people are giving away their surplus sanitary products to those in need, sharing updates on supermarkets that still have stock and offering car rides to those who can’t get around town.
Some members have also asked for translation services so they can communicate important updates with their neighbours from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The group’s admins have put together a list of community support organisations, health advice, and tips on dealing with social isolation during the virus-related quarantine.
“We thought this would be a small little group, but I think it hit a nerve of people feeling helpless,” Amedi said.
Sid Littlewood is the admin of the Sydney-based Inner West Mutual Aid group.
“I’ve been inundated with people saying ‘I can help’,” Littlewood told 10 daily.
“It’s about people becoming active in their community in a time when things get isolated. It gives us an online community, lets us feel like we’re doing stuff for each other.”
Littlewood said members had been sharing tips on how to stay safe from infection while helping those in isolation — such as leaving items at the front gate and using soap before and after.
“I see this fundamentally as a time to give care and organise. That can be about helping people pay rent if they can’t work, how we can get freezes on mortgages or rent organised,” Littlewood said.
“We’re going to need each other. The government can only provide so much, but there will be cracks, and we don’t want the most marginalised people falling through.”
Under the hashtag #viralkindness, British man Paul Trueman has put together a template for people to print out and share.
It aims to indicate what help is on offer, who is offering it, and where to get it.
Similar ideas have reportedly popped up in Australian communities.
“Everyone is interconnected and we can get through this all together,” Amedi said.
“Absolutely important to rally together. Solidarity is key,” Gardner said.
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