By Sejal Madan
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a difficult time for us all, and it has not been any easier with the constant adjustments being made to life at UNSW. It began with few students testing positive on campus, followed by the slow process of moving courses online. Then, the campus was shut down and finally certain faculties changed to a pass/fail grading system. Nowadays, confusion and anxiety has been at its peak amongst students and staff. At this time, when many are struggling with their mental health, supporting one another is more important than ever before. Staying positive as a team is what is going to help us get through this! Other than washing your hands and practising social distancing, here’s a list of things you can do to help make a difference in the lives of others! 😊
1) Order a meal from a local venue around Randwick
This could apply even if you are not living near campus and want to support a business local to you. While this may seem like a relatively easy thing to do, the impact from this act can be incredibly meaningful. The economy is suffering significantly right now because many businesses are being forced to shut down and less people are purchasing goods because they are stuck at home. Many restaurants and cafes, however, are allowed to stay open only for the purposes of providing take-away food. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food, therefore it is perfectly safe to order a meal from UberEATS or any other online service for “no contact delivery” or “self-pickup”. If you are like me, this will give you a break from having to cook yourself three meals a day from the limited cooking skills you possess. Not only that, but it also allows members of the community working in hospitality to stay employed and continue doing what they love.
2) Help vulnerable communities
The pandemic has proven to be particularly difficult on members of the health sector and the elderly community. Many retired nurses, doctors and pharmacists are being reinstated to help control the increased number of cases with COVID-19 with the hours often being long and relentless. Elderly communities on the other hand are facing challenges with everyday activities, as being the at-risk population for the virus means relatively simple tasks such as going out in public to buy groceries can be dangerous and difficult. If you are familiar with someone from either of these communities, it may be worth reaching out to them and ask if they need any domestic help. The Volunteer Army at UNSW is another platform where you can provide your support. UNSW Volunteer Army is currently providing online opportunities for students such as Cards with Care and Pen Pals with a Purpose. These programs allow you to connect with elderly members in aged care homes, to help reduce their feelings of loneliness and isolation due to visitation hours being shut down until the pandemic blows over.
3) Participate in online volunteering opportunities
Being at home can mean more time to spend on Netflix to binge-watch TV Shows, but you could use this same time behind a laptop to help give back to the community through online volunteering! Freerice, for example, is an online platform where the amount of time spent participating in surveys is converted to the number of grains of rice donated to third-world countries. Zooniverse is another website where the research helps create a better classification on data of animals. You can also do these through the Arc Volunteer Army page so that the time spent on these platforms is counted towards an official accreditation of volunteer hours on your AHEGS certificate!
4) Call an old friend or family member
Our regular lives usually involve incredibly busy schedules in trying to balance university, part-time work and a social life that we often don’t have time to sit down and have a sincere heart-to-heart with people who may have had a significant impact in our lives. Whether it is your Grandma that you haven’t called in a while, or your high school best friend who you drifted apart from, this is the perfect opportunity to get in touch and be there for one another. Lifeline reports that the research done after the SARS pandemic in Hong Kong found that residents who had remained socially connected were significantly less likely to have their mental health negatively affected than others. Other ways to promote positive mental health could be having video chats with university friends or joining in on the various fun Zoom workshops and competitions the Arc Facebook page hosts every day.
5) Spread Awareness
There is so much misinformation circulating social media with various claims about COVID-19 that it becomes difficult to keep track of which information is accurate and which pieces are purposely misleading. Many events such as panic-buying and discrimination against the Asian population could have been avoided if people were better educated during these times of uncertainty. It is important to stay up to date about the realities of the pandemic and to promote awareness where people are being ill-informed so that we can get through this together! You could post things on your social media, create a blog or get in touch with the various platforms UNSW offers where you can voice your concern, such as UNSWeetened or Tharunka. 😊