Having recently returned from a three-week trip to Charitable Impact’s overseas office in Bengaluru, India, I had no choice but to go into 14-day self-isolation.
I soon became thankful for my circumstances. While many Canadians are struggling through financial hardship through no fault of their own, I am fortunate to be able to work from home. Unlike the many Canadians facing COVID-19 alone, or at increased risk of complications, I have my healthy twins, Connor and Avery, around me.
That said, my thankfulness quickly turns to disappointment when I hear about people taking social distancing less seriously than this unprecedented crisis warrants. Just as COVID-19 has divided society along toilet-paper lines — those hoarding it, and those mocking the hoarders — the pandemic has divided us into those who are part of the problem, and those who are part of the solution. Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. Do your part by practising social distancing, or we’ll all have to deal with the fallout.
This is especially frustrating given how easy it is to be part of the solution. Stay home as much as possible, including for meals and entertainment. Greet others with a wave instead of a handshake, kiss or hug. Shop or take public transportation during off-peak hours. Exercise at home or outside. As one COVID-19 meme points out: “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to wash your hands and sit on your couch. You got this!”
Thankfully, my frustration over anti-social-distancing selfishness is tempered by “caremongering.” Dedicated to helping those who are especially vulnerable to the pandemic, this inspiring movement is spreading fast across Canada, with scores of Facebook groups spanning communities from Victoria to Halifax.
Caremongering reveals the unifying power of generosity. Just as all of humanity is threatened by COVID-19, acting as one community, one people, and one world is vital to overcoming the challenges it presents.
This approach is front and centre in my own workplace. Coronavirus-related donations through Charitable Impact have spiked in recent days, with gifts pouring in for organizations such as the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian Public Health Association, universities conducting COVID-19 research, and local charities that support community awareness and the vulnerable people who are the focus of the caremongering movement. These can include community centres, neighbourhood houses for families and senior citizens, and other facilities working to raise community awareness around best health practices and illness prevention.
At the same time, our Giving Groups provide an innovative way to make self-isolation less isolating and more rewarding by allowing Canadians to connect with others online and create change by rallying friends, family, coworkers and social networks around any charitable cause. This is the very definition of “caremongering,” with many Giving Groups now supporting charities that are working around the clock to tackle COVID-19.
An evolving crisis like this one will require Canadians to step up in ways that have yet to take shape. As the Imagine Canada charity association points out in a recent letter to Justin Trudeau, the economic disruption arising from COVID-19 is likely to squeeze charities and nonprofits on several fronts. For one thing, many organizations will face increased demand for the services they provide. For another, donations from businesses and individuals may be affected, especially since many fundraising events are being cancelled.
As the late spiritual teacher, author and philosopher Vernon Howard once said, “the great solution to all human problems is individual transformation.” The transformations required to overcome COVID-19 will be more difficult for some of us to achieve than they will be for others. From practicing social distancing and helping a vulnerable neighbour to being calm and supportive around your family, the key is to do all we can to get there.
Dan Brodie is the Chief Operating Officer of Charitable Impact.