The COVID-19 pandemic has dragged on much longer than expected. A pandemic that, without a doubt, has created obstacles to all kinds of human and, above all, solidarity actions. However, society is already living in a time that is helping to overcome these obstacles. That time is the era of digitalization, bringing people closer together in spite of the restrictions and complications that the coronavirus has imposed on society.
Unsurprisingly, the field of social initiative is also overcoming many of the adverse situations with new and improved forms of volunteering.
Online volunteering consists of dedicating some of your time to help in a social interest objective, in a virtual way. Like regular volunteering, it requires a medium or long-term (depending on the project) commitment of each person’s time. The time and the actions of volunteers, for the most part (although there are exceptions), have the characteristic that they are carried out directly with the people in need. However, the key to defining it is, on the one hand, the virtual way in which it is carried out and, on the other hand, the time and commitment required.
Digital volunteering, on the other hand, differs in that the action of the volunteer is limited to the NGO and the temporary commitment is less and is usually very punctual. Digital volunteering is understood as those actions that make use of digital technologies to promote a project or a social entity. For example, managing the profiles of social networks or writing individual articles for the blog of an NGO website.
It is worth commenting that both types of volunteering are often used as synonyms. In fact any action requiring digital technology is often interpreted as digital volunteering.
This differentiation is essential to understanding what virtual volunteering consists of and whether your NGO has the characteristics and capacity to be able to offer it as a project. Below are several types of online volunteering that are being carried out effectively.
- School support
Receiving a good education is essential, but many people do not manage to acquire it. It can be due to all kinds of difficulties such as not being able to keep up, having to cope with a new language, lack of material, obstacles to access the center, etc. All of these, aggravated in times of the coronavirus and situations as diverse as they are complicated, can be assisted by social entities in a virtual manner.
- Technical support and corporate volunteering
Qualified people contributing their knowledge in a free and selfless manner. Technical know-how for professionals or young people who lack sufficient resources or have problems (for example, bureaucratic) to carry out their projects. Widely used to help people living in developing countries, but it can be transferred to much closer communities.
Another example is that social initiative entities require more people to help maintain the entities’ digital platforms. There are jobs that are very technical that not everyone is capable of doing and that do not require a lot of effort for other people. It is a very good option if you can get sympathetic people who feel identified with your cause to help you out.
- Shelter for homeless people (making connections of offers of houses and rooms)
It is true that COVID-19 greatly restricts shelters for homeless people. Hosting is a process that has been seriously damaged. However, it is possible to connect homeless people (by phone, social networks…) with shelter flats or people who take in homeless people.
- Support and accompaniment
Accompaniment, perhaps the characteristic of human behavior most affected by the coronavirus. It had already been said that society was increasingly individualistic and people in situations of forced solitude were increasing. However, this situation has pushed it to much more serious limits. Mental illnesses, crisis situations, loneliness, cancer patients, pregnant women and an etcetera of multiple situations that require active listening and empathy that a volunteer can offer them.
- Support as a translator
Language translation is a clear possibility. A person who does not know the local language, with not too much effort, can be of great help. But also translating reports and technical processes such as medical, judicial, etc. that require a very good understanding.
Practically this is a volunteer for specific tasks that contributes to the goals of the social entity. All kinds of gestures and actions that add value but are very specific, both with the users and with the NGO. Although the possibilities are endless, an example would be to make visible a situation of extreme vulnerability of a person, say a patient with a rare disease who is not treated by the local health services, who requires the translation of pamphlets for his campaign. The task is limited to translate that pamphlet of that particular case.
*If the idea is to offer virtual volunteering with an international perspective, it is recommended to have a well-defined territory that you intend to help. Above all for focusing efforts and having a good knowledge of the reality in that territory.