Building community during a crisis
The Coronavirus lockdown period has brought out the best in many South Africans, who have invested their free time helping those in need. Online social platform forgood.co.za, which connects people to causes around the country, has seen a 250% increase in volunteers offering their skills, time and money to charities and non-profits, since lockdown measures were announced. In addition, more than half a million South Africans have engaged with the platform through Facebook.
Andy Hadfield, CEO of forgood, is not surprised by the spike in numbers; “The pandemic has given people perspective. As a result, we’re seeing an entirely new level of appreciation for community and connectedness. Volunteering, even virtually, is all about contact with other humans. It helps build new social networks and strengthens feelings of community. This leads to an increased sense of purpose, improved self-esteem, and better mental health.”
Charities have expressed their gratitude to South Africans using their time to make a positive impact during lockdown. “We’ve had an overwhelming number of professionals, including data analysts, marketing experts and labour lawyers, assisting us with critical tasks,” says Elize Lombard, Managing Director at Usapho Foundation, a non-profit organisation (NPO) that empowers families through preventative and developmental intervention programmes.
At the start of the lockdown period, forgood launched their #Coronavirus campaign, encouraging South Africans to become virtual volunteers. As part of the campaign, over 400 lockdown-specific volunteering opportunities have been listed on the platform, as well as the option to shop online and buy essentials for communities in need or donate money directly to verified NPOs.
The relationship between volunteers, causes and the communities they serve benefits everyone involved. “Many non-profits are dependent on volunteers in their local communities and would be struggling even more without them during this difficult period. Volunteers that we’ve engaged with, have found the work creative, inspiring and rewarding, especially while stuck at home,” says Lesley Ann Van Selm, Managing Director at Khulisa Social Solutions, who have had more than 50 volunteers respond to their requests for virtual assistance via the forgood platform in the last two weeks alone.
According to data collected by forgood, community development, education, and disaster relief are the most popular causes people have dedicated their time to. “From making support calls to the elderly, to drawing up volunteer and employee contracts for a drug and substance awareness programme – people are discovering ways to uplift others that they’ve never even considered before,” says Hadfield.
Forgood, who recently partnered with the Solidarity Fund, has also seen a significant increase in people willing to fund charities from their own pocket. Using the online platform, monetary donations can safely be made to verified organisations to feed children, purchase sanitary products and help NPO’s stay afloat. “This is an example of the South African spirit of generosity and resilience. Even when faced with a crisis, people have found a way to put community first,” says Hadfield.
Visit https://www.forgood.co.za/campaigns to take part and make a real difference, while keeping safe at home. “It doesn’t matter what your skill set is, if you have access to the internet and time on your hands, there is something you can do,” says Hadfield.