COURTESY OF EMME WEISENFELD
For many, staying at home hasn’t been easy: It can be stressful and frustrating to see all of the suffering in the world but not know how to help.
As Fordham students, the Jesuit mantra of “homines pro aliis,” or, as we’re more used to hearing it, “men and women for others,” has been drilled into our hearts and minds. Now, with our Fordham community spread across the globe, we have the chance to apply these values through service in both our local cities and our campus home in New York City.
There are many ways to get involved in relief efforts from both inside your home and outside while safely practicing social distancing protocols — with the ways listed below, anyone can get involved.
With blood drives across the U.S. canceled in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus, organizations like the American Red Cross are facing shortages, though the need for blood donations has not decreased. The process of giving blood doesn’t put donors at risk of contracting the coronavirus, nor has there been evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted via blood transfusions, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In fact, the FDA recently approved revised and less-restrictive guidelines for donating blood.
You can donate whether or not you have had the coronavirus as long as you’re feeling healthy on the day of your scheduled donation. In fact, many organizations are seeking plasma donations from individuals who have had the coronavirus and recovered in order to treat those who are currently fighting the virus.
As unemployment claims grow by the day and families struggle to pay for food, many have turned to food banks for relief, which are struggling to keep up with the demand. Organizations like Part of the Solution (POTS), a nonprofit based in the Bronx that offers meals to those in need and operates a food pantry, need both volunteers and donations.
A third option to support food banks and other organizations helping to provide relief is to make a financial contribution.
With students learning remotely, tutors are all the more valuable. Tutors are a great resource for students who found it difficult to transition to online coursework. College students are in a prime position to tutor due to their flexible schedules, and tutoring can provide an outlet for human connection in these lonely times.
Fordham has a number of partnerships with local schools, such as Aquinas High School and the East Harlem Tutorial Program, to provide tutoring services. Roxanne De La Torre, Fordham College at Rose Hill ’09, the director of campus and community leadership for the Center for Community Engaged Learning, has more information on how to get involved with Fordham-affiliate programs. Additionally, sites like Pencil and Screen, GOCOVIDCONNECT, or the World Family Children Foundation are seeking tutors.
As homemade masks become the latest way to express COVID-19-appropriate fashion, many individuals and organizations have taken it
upon themselves to turn their mask-making abilities into a form of service. POTS launched an initiative called POTS Makes Masks where volunteers can make masks — following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — to donate to those in need.
Lindsay Bishop, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’18, has made and distributed over 300 cloth masks via her Instagram-based store Hats by Lindsay, which offers a selection of hats for pigtails and ponytails.
Instead of selling her masks, however, Bishop only asks that customers donate something to help with relief efforts. “People will send me donations on Venmo for the shipping and the supplies,” Bishop said. “It’s been great to see how people are giving. It’s connected me and I honestly feel closer than ever before to a lot of people just in doing this.”
Finally, one of the simplest and perhaps most important ways to serve is by maintaining connections.
Some Fordham students have turned to postcards and handwritten letters to keep in contact with their peers. Emme Weisenfeld, FCLC ’23, plans on sending out postcards to her friends after finals. “I believe there is something so wonderful about receiving a handwritten letter. Every time I receive a letter in the mail, I know that someone has put in a good amount of time and energy to make me feel noticed,” Weisenfeld said.
Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages and handwritten letters to deployed troops, first responders and veterans, has recently extended its reach to include medical personnel and others working to curb the spread of the coronavirus in a new partnership with The Starbucks Foundation.
Similarly, the Goddard Riverside Community Center, situated close to the Fordham Lincoln Center campus, put out a call for volunteers to handwrite cards and letters to older adults in the area to boost morale.
Understanding why the inequalities that necessitate these needs exist is just as important as the service itself. De La Torre and Kathryn Echele, FCLC ’23, both emphasized the importance of advocacy and social justice alongside direct service.
“Not everyone has the same access to resources or the ability to pay for those resources, so it is crucial that people support one another,” Echele said. “Social justice is equally as important … To ensure that critical mistakes don’t get repeated, people need to advocate for change.”
With the summer coming up, there will likely be more opportunities to volunteer. For example, Echele will complete a service-oriented internship over the summer in her hometown, St. Louis, helping to provide relief to immigrants in her local community and to aid in coronavirus recovery efforts.
The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic will likely last a long time, so there will be plenty of opportunities to help with recovery efforts in the coming months. As classes end, staying connected to those near and far is more important than ever, and lending a helping hand — whether virtual or physical — could be just the thing you need to break out of that coronavirus slump.