Connecting From Afar

Words by James, 25 ACT

It’s a tough time for a lot of us right now due to COVID-19.

People have lost their jobs and others face an increased risk of transmission while we’re all adapting to a new life in social isolation. As young people, we’re more likely to face social or economic uncertainty. So many of us make up the hospitality or retail industries and are now out of work, or are facing increased pressures at home or with study. Many of us are also feeling disconnected and want to support others in our community but aren’t sure how. The good news is, there are still many ways to offer support from home! 

You can join a mutual aid group. These groups are being set up across Australia with neighbours getting together to support people most affected by the spread of COVID-19. They are voluntary, led by members of your community and open to anyone.

A heap of mutual aid groups have sparked up in Canberra, where I live. We have one big group for the whole region, then little groups set up for each suburb. There are a few folks for each area that are the contact point between people that need help and people that want to give help. When someone gets in touch asking for assistance, they will be connected with a volunteer who has offered to help.

If you feel you have the capacity to help, search ‘mutual aid’ and your area on Facebook to see if a group already exists, or start one yourself! All you’ll need to do is grab a few friends and think about how you’re going to connect people who want to help with those who need it. Not only is it a great reason to meet new people, but also a good reminder that this pandemic is bigger than any one of us, and it is so important to connect with our community in the face of uncertainty. 

If you don’t have the capacity to join a mutual aid group, there are lots of other ways to support your community! You can support local and small businesses – especially those that now risk closing due to COVID-19. Many cafes and restaurants have switched to take-away only and rely on these orders to remain open and pay their staff. 

Consider also supporting many of the individuals and organisations in the arts community whose incomes have been put on hold. Many of them are adapting, which means it’s easier than ever to support! Independent bookstores are offering delivery or contactless pick up. Artists are providing virtual sets and exhibitions. You can also buy their merch, buy a membership to an arts group or a subscription to your favourite independent magazine or news outlet. If you’re stuck, just think about the things you typically like to enjoy – for me, its magazines and music – so I’ve been looking at their social media accounts to see how I can support them right now.

You can donate to frontline organisations, like food banks, homeless shelters, domestic violence, disability support, and mental health organisations. Many of these are not-for-profit and rely on community support to do their work.

A few of the nation-wide organisations working in this space are Foodbank Australia, OzHarvest, Find-A-Bed, Orange Sky, The Smith Family, ReachOut or LifeLine, but there would be countless groups in your area providing direct local support. A quick online search will find them. If giving money doesn’t work for you, give one of these organisations a call and ask if there is a way that you can donate your time or skills – I’m sure they’d love to hear from you! 

You can also keep donating toward other issues you care about – whether that’s climate change, First Nations justice or asylum seeker support. Not only do these issues continue to exist regardless of COVID-19, but the organisations advocating for them are under extreme pressure as many of their typical fundraising options now under threat. 

Remember to keep yourself well. We’re all facing massive disruptions and it’s important not to discount our own feelings or experiences.

Think about the things that were important to you before the COVID-19 disruptions and think about how you can adapt them to the current circumstances. They don’t have to be huge, changes either. It could be as simple as grabbing a coffee and sitting in a park with a friend, eating your lunch outside, going for a walk while you call your parents or doing some stretching before you go to sleep.

It’s so important that we look after ourselves right now, in whatever way we can – especially if you’re also supporting others.

Illustration by AileenYou can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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