COVID-19 causes difficulty in finding volunteer opportunities

November 5, 2020 — by Jonathan Si

Junior Karen Chen reads with Pre-K students with the Quantum Auxilia Leo Club in their Reading With Kids Program. 

Last year, sophomore Shannon Wang drove to the beach to aid with a cleanup effort and also performed in the Thankful Hearts Concert for seniors in the Our Lady Fatima Villa, two of many other volunteer activities she participated in as a part of the school’s Leo Club. This year, however, Wang has found herself cooped up at home and lacking in volunteering opportunities.

“I enjoyed spending time on community service because I was happy to help others and the environment,” Wang said. “But this year, being locked up indoors during a pandemic has limited all those opportunities, and I haven’t been able to help as much as I would’ve liked to.”

Despite a lack of opportunities caused by the pandemic, volunteers are working hard to find new ways to help the community online. Many places, such as food banks, are still open for volunteers, but prioritizing safety has made it more difficult to plan successful volunteer opportunities. 

“There was definitely a drop in volunteer activities,” said Nina Tang, a District 4-C4 chairperson and adviser. “We used to have in-person teaching programs every weekend, but then we were quiet for a couple months [due to COVID].” 

The Leo District 4-C4 consists of all 16 Leo Clubs, including the Quantum Auxilia Leo Club, in San Francisco, San Mateo County and the City of Palo Alto. Leo Clubs are youth branches of the worldwide community service program Lions Club International with members ranging from 12-18 years old.

Currently, Tang and many of her volunteers are tutoring children online, but the number of children attending these classes has dropped significantly since the pandemic started.

Since volunteering through virtual means limits the number of possible volunteer activities, Tang is still trying to host new events in order to encourage volunteering, such as physically writing cards to senior citizens. 

The Saratoga Leo Club, a member of Leo District 4-C6, has found many ways to help the community as well, such as making scarves for the homeless and writing cards for seniors.

“We’ve still been trying to adapt the best we can,” said junior Viraaj Reddi, the club’s president. He cited sending 150 thank-you cards to healthcare workers over the summer and making fleece hats for the homeless.

Currently, they are also partnered with the Hand in Hand organization to help teach middle and elementary school students subjects such as biology, computer science and math. Once a week, the volunteers work with partners and teach the children online.

Given that many activities have been canceled, students have found it harder to both keep up with their previous volunteer work and find new ones.

Previously, sophomore Ainsley Sheen had coached the Redwood Middle School Science Olympiad Team, played music with Tri-M and volunteered at MSET competitions and a marathon in Mountain View last year. But now, Sheen feels that many of his usual volunteer activities have been too much of a hassle to keep up with, and he ultimately decided to discontinue most of them and focus on coaching Redwood Middle School students.

Other students are welcoming the new alternatives and feel the at-home alternatives make volunteering much more accessible.

Sophomore Anushka Sankaran, for example, made face masks at home with SEWA International, a non-profit service organization. 

Before quarantine, Sankaran had volunteered with Techlab Education, a computer science class, but found it difficult to find time to drive to the class. Now that new, at-home opportunities are popping up, Sankaran finds volunteering much more accessible.

“I thought making masks were easier because it was something that operated under my own hours and I didn’t have to go out of my way to go somewhere and do it,”  she said. 

Though in-person volunteer opportunities are more difficult to find at this time, Tang said that its significance and benefit to the community should not dwindle. She wants students to continue finding ways to help their community, especially since many now feel dejected or need help.

“I think it’s important that when everyone is cooped up at home, we still stay connected with the outside world and are aware of the suffering of others and find out ways to help them,” Tang said. “It’s important not to lose that passion. There are always things that we can do.”

 

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