Sunday, May 3, 2020

Social solidarity amid COVID-19: Ways to help the people who need it most

Image via New Economy Coalition
I read a comment recently about the coronavirus pandemic that really resonated with me: We may all be in the same storm, but we're not all in the same boat.

Every day, it seems, I read (and sometimes write) about how this disease and its wide-ranging impacts are laying bare long-standing inequities in our societies, about the workers who can't afford to stay home, the refugees who don't have a home to stay in, the women for whom home in the most dangerous place, the 30 million people who have lost their jobs in the U.S. alone.

It's a stark reminder that as fear, loneliness, and insecurity batter us all, some of our vessels are definitely more seaworthy than others.

For those of us fortunate enough to be safe, employed, and in good health right now, I've compiled this very incomplete list of ways to help those who aren't. If you're an American who's received the $1,200 stimulus check and doesn't need that financial assistance, I humbly suggest joining me in donating all or part of that as a way to start.

And please do reach out to propose any recommended additions to this list.


Meeting basic needs

  • Ahtapot Gönüllüleri — This volunteer association's "Kardeş Aile" (Sister Family) project asks one family to support another struggling through the COVID-19 crisis by buying them the groceries they need through an online delivery platform or sending them a gift card.
  • Askıda Fatura – Municipalities around Turkey – including Istanbul, İzmir, Ankara, and Antalya – have set up websites similar to Bi'Komşu where people can anonymously pay unpaid utility bills for those in need. 
  • Bi'Komşu — This new website (its name means "A Neighbor") allows users to anonymously pay the utility bills of people who have requested support. You can search by neighborhood, choose a recipient at random, or search for urgent cases. The website is in Turkish, but you can read about it in English here. [Update: This campaign has now ended] 
  • Bodrum Humanity – Tourist-dependent towns like Bodrum are expecting major losses of income this year. This local NGO is delivering food packs and other supplies to needy families of laid-off building staff and hospitality workers and helping with rent payments as part of its mission to provide humanitarian support for the local community. Bank details for donations are on their website. 
  • İnşaat-İş — Construction workers union İnşaat-İş has created a solidarity fund for its members who have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis. Contact the listed numbers (in Turkish) to find out how to contribute.
  • İthiyaç Haritası — The innovative "Needs Map" is just that, a map of people and organizations around Turkey that need support. If you read Turkish, you can donate directly to a need of your choice through their website, or send a general donation through Turkish Philanthropy Funds, which has a thorough explanation in English of the project. 
  • TİDER — The only Turkish member of the Global FoodBanking Network, TİDER operates "support markets" where people can get free groceries and other essential household goods. You can donate to their work, or apply to be a volunteer.
  • Turkish Philanthropy Funds — Money raised through the TPF COVID-19 Community Relief Fund goes to community organizations working on the ground in both Turkey and the U.S. to support vulnerable populations, quarantined individuals, and healthcare workers.

    Supporting refugees and migrants

    • Ad.dar — This community center for Syrian and Syrian-Palestinian refugees in Istanbul is collecting donations to provide supermarket gift cards for struggling families.
    • Common Sense Initiative — This group of activists, artists, and journalists who support migrants and refugees in Istanbul has helped families furnish their flats with donated goods and is delivering food baskets to families who have lost work or income due to the coronavirus. You can send donations to their PayPal account or contact them through social media for their Turkish bank account information.
    • Open Arms Kayseri — This center for refugees in central Turkey is delivering emergency food packages to the needy during the coronavirus pandemic. Their Turkish bank details for donations are on their Facebook "About" page (under "More Information"), or you can buy some of the cute items crocheted by refugee families from their Etsy shop.
    • ReVi — This group of İzmir-based volunteers has started a Coronavirus Fund to help refugee families in need. If you don't want to donate by credit card, they have accounts in the U.S., U.K., Europe, Australia, and Turkey for direct local money transfer.
    • Tarlabaşı Dayanışma — This community association in the Tarlabaşı neighborhood of Istanbul has put out an urgent call for funds to help migrants and others in need. Just 60 TL can provide hygiene supplies (soap, sanitizer, masks, gloves) and a grocery card. Message them on Facebook or Twitter to find out more.
    • Turkey Volunteers — With school classes having moved online, refugee kids who don't have access to computers at home are at risk of falling further behind. If you have a reliable, working secondhand computer to donate, email this group at the listed address.
    • Yusra Community Center — This volunteer-run space for refugees and other displaced people in Istanbul needs funds to support its community through the COVID-19 crisis.

    Helping the homeless

    • Çorbada Tuzun Olsun — This Turkish NGO feeds the homeless and is advocating for longer-term solutions to homelessness amid the pandemic. You can apply to volunteer on their nightly food distributions, or donate money.

    Donating blood

    • Kızılay — The combination of the coronavirus pandemic and the month of Ramadan (when many people are fasting and may not be able to give blood) has created an urgent need for blood and plasma donations in Turkey. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) has an online map of its donation points.

    Protecting women from domestic abuse

    • Mor Çatı — Reports of domestic violence are up all around the world amid the coronavirus crisis. You can donate funds directly to the Turkish women's shelter foundation Mor Çatı, or buy some of their cute merchandise to support their life-saving work.


    Update: With a new round of stimulus checks being issued, CNBC, GoFundMe, and Quartz all have lists of different ideas for donating any money you don't personally need. 
    NPR also has some good general tips on helping people who are struggling, financially and otherwise.

    Meeting basic needs

    • 10Give10 —This grassroots initiative is asking Americans to donate just $10 of their stimulus check to families hit hardest by COVID-19. The money will be distributed by the nonprofit GiveDirectly, which provides low-income families, most headed by single mothers, with $1,000 cash, no strings attached. 
    • Coronavirus Relief Fund — Not sure who to donate to? This fund answers that question for you by splitting your donation among 13 worthy organizations.
    • Davis Street — This comprehensive resource center for low-income members of the San Leandro, California, community is operating an emergency food pantry and continuing to offer a primary care clinic and other services. They are in need of monetary donations, sanitizing items, and unexpired food, and also accepting volunteers under the age of 50 who are willing and able to come onsite.
    • Feeding America — This nationwide network of food banks has established a COVID-19 Response Fund to help food banks across the country secure the resources they need to effectively and safely support communities.
    • YMCA of San Francisco — Tax-deductible donations to the Y's COVID-19 Sustainability Fund support emergency childcare for kids of healthcare and frontline workers; expanded food pantry services and locations for families struggling with food insecurity; and other essential safety-net services.

    Helping the homeless

    • The more than half-million homeless people in the US are at higher risk of catching and dying from COVID-19. This list of San Francisco Bay Area groups supporting the homeless was put together pre-pandemic by the team at the 99% Invisible podcast, whose "According to Need" series is an invaluable listen for understanding why homelessness has become such an intractable issue in the Bay Area.

    Supporting refugees and migrants

    • International Refugee Assistance Project — This legal-aid organization for refugees is also now helping vulnerable clients in urgent situations with emergency funds to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, and helping them get access to medical care and mental health support. You can donate or apply to volunteer.
    • Karam Foundation —This nonprofit has launched an emergency campaign to help Syrian refugee families settled in the U.S. who are suffering economically from repercussions of the coronavirus.

    Helping local businesses survive

    • Small Business Relief Initiative — One of the depressing things about this pandemic, even for those of us who are secure ourselves, is thinking about how many beloved restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and other small businesses might not survive. Through GoFundMe's Small Business Relief Initiative page, you can search for favorite businesses near you that are facing financial loss.

    Reaching out / donating time

    • Kindness of Strangers — Sign up with this site to be (or connect with) a kind stranger who donates as little as 30 minutes of time to someone who needs help or company. You can offer a skill like yoga tips or math tutoring; advice or mentorship; or just a listening ear to someone who is lonely. The site has partnered with senior homes across the U.S. so people can "adopt a grandparent" too. 


    • Help Refugees — Funds donated to this group's coronavirus emergency appeal support efforts to help displaced people living in overcrowded and unsanitary refugee camps in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. This assistance includes providing doctors and nurses to those who have none, providing emergency isolation accommodation for the sick, and distributing soap and hand sanitizer.
    • Mind — Mental health is a serious concern globally as isolation conditions in many countries drag on. Donations to this UK-based charity help fund their hotline and other support networks for people, including frontline workers, who are feeling overwhelmed or despairing.
    • Women's Aid — Like other organizations working with survivors of domestic violence, this UK-based charity says it has seen a huge increase in demand for its services since the pandemic started. Donations help keep its live chat hotline going so women who aren't safe at home have somewhere to reach out.


    • Doctors Without Borders — Medical personnel from Doctors Without Borders are working to respond to COVID-19 in hard-hit communities around the world, including in the United States. You can donate to their efforts here.
    • Informal Workers' Campaigns — The world's 2 billion informal workers depend on their daily earnings to survive and face the risk of falling into extreme poverty as a result of government-ordered lockdowns. The global network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing & Organizing has compiled a list of fundraising campaigns led by membership-based organizations of informal workers and their allies.
    • Translators Without Borders — Reliable information is essential for combatting coronavirus. Translators Without Borders is seeking volunteer translators in a number of Asian languages to help ensure broad access health-related information. You can also donate to their work.

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