Being in college does not preclude you from helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, you may be busy, and you may be struggling with the stress and challenges of remote learning, but if you feel a desire in your heart to help change people’s lives for the better, there are plenty of ways to do so. While helping others is not a requirement, and it’s OK to survive for yourself right now, it’s also OK to dust yourself off and lend a helping hand to those who need it.
Here are some ways college students can help underserved communities during the COVID-19 crisis.
Volunteer for non-profits in your area.
Volunteers are essential to our world, now more than ever. Chances are, there are already plenty of non-profit organizations in your area working hard for their mission, and all you need to do is join their cause or advocacy. Here are some steps to finding the non-profit organization to volunteer for:
- Identify your core mission. Who do you want to help? Do you want to help underserved families build their homes, or do you want to shelter and feed the homeless in your neighborhood? Identify first what mission you want to help serve—chances are there’s already an established non-profit working on it.
- Do your due diligence. Once you find an organization that’s doing work close to your heart, do everything you can to know more about this non-profit’s values, priorities, and the team of people behind them. Ensure that everything they stand for is aligned with yours and that they are ethical and transparent in all of their practices.
- Make the call or write an e-mail. Click on the link that invites you to volunteer. Chances are they are on the lookout for passionate people like you, people who are willing and able to work hard to serve the beneficiaries.
Reach out to your fellow students who are struggling.
Sometimes, we search high and low for people to help, not realizing that there are people in our immediate sphere of influence who need it the most. If you go to a more affordable college and know students struggling financially due to the economic downturn, don’t hesitate to reach out to them. However, make sure that you remain respectful and that you don’t encroach their boundaries. Remember that people are not projects; they have feelings and deserve to be connected with on a sincere level. Ensure you’re reaching out from a place of wanting to build a friendship, not just because you see them as a project you need to work on.
Start a genuine relationship with them and work from there. Make sure to help in ways that bestow them the dignity that they deserve. Whether it’s websites like GoFundMe or personally reaching out to your more affluent classmates, make sure that you don’t make your underserved classmate feel small and that you will only help at the level they consent to and find comfortable.
Offer your research acumen.
There are plenty of research organizations in the world that are always on the lookout for an extra pair of hands. You can get in touch with these organizations by using platforms like Zooniverse, which helps connect interested volunteers with professional researchers who need volunteer support. One example of this is the organization Every Name Counts, which launched a project that asked help from volunteers in documenting and digitizing the names of those who fell victim to Nazi persecution during World War II. They make use of various resources from history, like Arolsen Archives. If this kind of work interests you, consider signing up. It’s a wonderful way to invest your energy and time.
Sign up for a service-learning class.
Service learning is all about combining community service and academics. If you want to understand how theory is applied in real-world contexts, service-learning classes can help you gain a deeper understanding of the kind of community service that works best and benefits the marginalized communities you want to help.
Some topics include direct service-learning, which is all about being on ground zero to provide direct help to those who need it, indirect service-learning, which is helping the mission create awareness through social media and others, research to help inform the organization’s work and choices, and advocacy, which is all about enhancing public awareness about the issue.
If there is a mission that you’re passionate about, don’t let the fact that you’re a college student stop you from doing your part to help. The world needs your heart and your voice.