In a time of uncertainty and fear, remembering you are part of a community can help us all get through this
It was reading an article in the Daily Mail about an Oregon woman who helped an elderly couple afraid of catching COVID-19 grab groceries that inspired Allana Braga to do the same.
“After reading [the article] I just thought there had to be people in Cambridge in the same boat, who don’t have family around they can count on,” Braga told the Ryersonian. “I wanted to reach out and see what I could do to help.”
Braga, who is based in Cambridge, Ont., made a Facebook post on Friday, March 13 — the same day Ryerson cancelled in-person classes — offering to pick up groceries for anyone in need.
For people who fall under the category of being at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as the elderly and those who are immunocompromised, grocery shopping during the pandemic can be scary. Which is why many young people have stepped up to the plate to do their part, such as running errands for people.
In a Facebook post, Braga writes: “I understand that at this time people may be somewhat afraid of going grocery shopping, particularly those more at risk of getting sick.”
The recent forensic science graduate from University of Toronto said she had also seen one of her Facebook friends make a post saying they were going to pick up supplies and asked if any of their friends needed anything. “I thought I would piggyback off this idea and advertise the same thing to people I did not know in the community as well,” she said.
Braga posted both on her Facebook timeline as well as to the “Cambridge Ontario Buy & Sell” page, in order for her to reach a bigger audience.
Adam Asmar, a fifth-year history student at Ryerson, also made a public post on Facebook in hopes to reach a wide audience.
Instead of offering to buy groceries, Asmar put together a community fund to help those who were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, including freelance workers, gig economy employees and those who had been laid off.
“If you or anyone you know could benefit from $30 to help you make it through this month, DO NOT HESITATE to message me,” wrote Asmar. “Everyone is kept anonymous and no stigma or judgment is allowed in my house. Take care of yourselves.”
Asmar told the Ryersonian he got inspired by opinion articles with the premise of ‘get cash into people’s hands now and worry about what will happen after,’ in efforts to mitigate the economic fallout of social isolation.
Asmar does not want to take sole credit for the idea, though. “I’ve definitely seen other funds through this time,” said Asmar. “This is not my idea.”
He said U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s support of the idea of universal basic income was also an inspiration for the fund.
“We’ve given money to several people, all affected in one way or another by the closures and social isolation,” said Asmar.
“Through this pandemic we have to get back to our roots in terms of what is important to us,” said Asmar. “To me, community care is at the centre of that.”
Asmar said he is still taking donations and welcomes people to message him on Facebook if they need anything. “Everyone is anonymous and no one is judged.”
Other gestures on social media include offering child care services, money, plants and other hard-to-find essential supplies, such as toilet paper.
— Andrew Russell (@andrewglobal) March 19, 2020
Coronavirus is getting real and spreading day by day,I’m here to help people with at least $500 thru this pandemic period..Kindly the Retweet for this offer!….#COVID19ON #Maketheworldabetterplace #HelpEachOther
— James Clark (@JamesClark091) March 19, 2020
Braga encourages other young people like herself to offer their services during this time. “As a community, we are only as strong as our most vulnerable person,” she said. “There is always something that you can do to help.
“This is a time where the uncertainty of the situation can bring out a lot of panic in others, causing people to empty out shelves and not consider whether they are taking away something from someone who does not have the same access or may need it more,” said Braga.
“Step back and make an effort to help others bring back that sense of humanity that people may forget about during times like these,” she said.“It takes the thought process from ‘what do I need?’ to ‘what can I do to help?’”
Braga said that despite the traction her post received, only one person actually took her up on her offer — a 60 year-old lady in her community with mobility issues.
Braga picked up some items for her and dropped them off on her doorstep (practising social distancing, of course).
The two have stayed in contact through Facebook ever since and have formed a friendship, despite social distancing. Braga said the lady was appreciative of the gesture and they like to check in on one another every once in a while to make sure they are each doing OK.
“Be kind to others,” said Braga. “Dealing with a pandemic can be a scary thing, but something a lot scarier happens when we forget to care for our community.”