As COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S., higher education institutions are taking the necessary steps to keep their students, staff, and faculty safe. Many campuses, including Trinity, have moved to remote classes for some length of time as our communities are being told to practice social distancing, which is the correct public health message, and one that requires us to invent entirely new ways for people to stay connected to each other and civically engaged.
Civic engagement is incredibly important to the health of communities everywhere, so during these challenging times, the Center for Hartford Engagement & Research at Trinity College (CHER) is thinking creatively about our partnerships and how we can stay true to our mission (while keeping everyone safe). We know that many people in our community are in need, and many want to help, so we posed the question: “How can you become civically engaged while practicing social distancing?”
To answer this question, we decided to go directly to our community partners and ask them what their current needs are, which is important since Covid 19 has drastically changed the operations and staffing structures of many community organizations. To help match those needs, we then invited our Trinity students, faculty, and staff to contribute ideas and skills they can offer to the Hartford community. Thanks to the work of our team and the flexibility of our community engagement database in Airtable, several of these listings now appear publicly on our new web page “Volunteer in the Hartford Area During Covid 19.” This public web page, coupled with a series of CHER blog posts and social media content, will also help us to create new partnerships and expand existing partnerships between community organizations and Trinity students, faculty, and staff.
To help get the ideas flowing, our team created this ever evolving list of online community engagement ideas:
- Volunteer with an existing program to mentor or tutor youth by video or phone
- Assist people by phone to fill out online forms (such as CT unemployment benefits)
- Organize a computer donation drive for a Hartford partner to distribute to students
- Offer to set up free internet services for lower-income families that request assistance
- Print out packets of student learning materials to be distributed at meal pickup sites
- Contribute your own read-aloud videos, in multiple languages, that we can share out with Hartford parents, educators, etc.
- Create artistic packages to inspire creativity, and include starter ideas & supplies
- Compile high-quality open educational resources by topic and age level for teachers
- Plan an “Ask Me Anything” live video stream on a topic you study
- Listen to people who need to talk with someone during this isolation period
- Create a template for writing and mailing thank you notes to essential businesses/employees in the Hartford area
- Join #PledgeToStayHome and take action on other ConnPIRG campaigns
- Help organizations update and revise key information on their websites
- Design online forms for groups to connect their needs with volunteers
- Expand the reach of Trinity’s video conferencing tutorials beyond campus
- Encourage people contribute experiences to a Covid public humanities project
- Propose a research project to analyze different governmental responses to the crisis.
We all need to support each other and stay connected during this difficult period. Feel free to contact any member of the CHER team if you would like to discuss ideas or questions that are on your mind. We’d love to hear from you!
CHER encourages remote volunteering during Covid 19. If people choose in-person volunteering, exercise caution and follow social distancing guidelines for your location from the CDC or the State of Connecticut (see also CT FAQ sheet) or Trinity College Advisories. See also recent CHER News posts about staying safe while being civically engaged during Covid 19.