Feeling helpless in this time when the world is going to shit? COVID-19 has terrorized our society, and the world we live in will no longer be the same. People are affected by the current crisis in so many different ways. If only there was something we could do!
I’ve had this feeling of helplessness for the past few weeks— until I realized that even if we aren’t all healthcare workers actively out there saving lives right now, there are smaller things we can do in this time when a large portion of the population is in need of help.
In the Netherlands, the country I’ve called home for several months now, there is ongoing discussion about how we can help our fellow citizens by taking some small actions. Sara, my girlfriend and I, have been talking about this a lot lately, and we’ve decided on a few simple things that we figured we could do to help out our fellow humans.
I’m going to share this with you in case you, like us, want to help but aren’t sure where to start. Here’s what you can do.
#1 Order Online from Local Businesses
I don’t need to tell you that businesses all around the globe are taking a hit. You’ve seen it on the news, and you’ve probably seen it happening in front of your eyes in your neighborhood. I saw this happening too, and then I thought to myself, don’t just sit there and let them go bankrupt– do something about it!
We’ve seen many small businesses trying to cope with the current times. Because we live on a shopping street, we are actually witnessing—daily—how businesses are trying to make the best out of this situation. The bar in front of our house is using this time to do renovations, the wine store down the street is open at odd hours during the day and only lets one person in at a time.
For us, it really hit a nerve when we were walking back from the grocery store and we saw our favorite bookstore in the city, a small queer bookshop that had a sign in Dutch saying, “Read at home and order your books online!” They were prepared to deliver, and we knew how unusual this was for them. So we thought, we’re going to order some fucking books! #selfdevelopment. #coronareadinglist.
So we did it. We ordered two books from them (and we’ll order some more soon!). And look at how we got them! All wrapped up pretty for us, and delivered by a guy on a bicycle who politely lay the books down for us on the ground for us to safely pick up.
We definitely want these small, wonderful stores and cafes in our neighborhood to still be open when all of this is over, so along with ordering these books, we also decided to order a “local package” that’s offered in our city of Utrecht.
This package is meant as a way to help several local stores at once. Our box, the vegetarian box, had some coffee from a local roaster, beer from local breweries, bread from local bakeries, etc. You get the picture. And if you don’t, that’s what the picture above is there for! You can save that imagination of yours for those lonely Corona-nights.
#2 Grocery Shopping at Markets
I am ashamed to admit that I was not a “markt” or “market” frequenter in the Netherlands before the Coronavirus struck. But when Sara and I heard on the news that the sellers in outdoor markets were suffering because many people were visiting big name grocery stores instead of buying from them. But why?
This point is related to suggestion #1, but there’s an additional bonus here. Instead of using your precious outdoor time to go to the big name supermarkets to buy your groceries, you can go to the markets and local shops instead. Aren’t I an absolute genius? (So much sarcasm here)
BUT REALLY, big supermarkets (though not all) often have larger reserves of money that will help them stay in business longer. These sellers who sell in these markets don’t have that luxury. By buying from them, not only will you get the same groceries for less, you’ll get to stay outside while grocery shopping. I know that I for one am not someone to give up on my outdoor time right now!
And many outdoor markets are actually taking several precautions to make sure that there is minimal contact between both customers and the servers or cashiers. Check out our local outdoor market.
You may not think anything of those crates in the middle there, but they are make-shift rows for people to maintain a one and a half meter distance from each other! What’s more, the seller also keep their distance from each other, with people one and a half meters apart inside the stalls as well.
In the Netherlands, the people selling groceries and other goods at the market aren’t farmers themselves, but I know that in some places, like in the US, you can actually help out local farmers directly by going to the farmers market. That is something to keep in mind if this suggestion sounds good to you!
#3 Donating to the Lesser Fortunate
This is something I do in all kinds of fucked up situations, and this time is no exception. I feel very strongly about giving back to others. Especially since I am so fortunate. My girlfriend and I are very happy in our tiny apartment, and we both still have our jobs. If you are one of the many affected by this horrendous situation, my heart goes out to you. You guys are in my thoughts.
For the rest of us, I truly believe that now is the time to act. I understand that it can be hard to know where to donate and how much to donate so I’m here to help. I’m no expert on the matter — there, I’ve given you a fair warning — but I can tell you that people are in need of supplies in many places where there are a shortage of things like healthcare basics. Direct Relief is one place where you can consider sending a few bucks. They send medical stuff to people who do medical stuff.
I personally donated to one of the refugee charities in the Netherlands. Refugees in camps live in extreeeeemely close to each other. They are one of the most vulnerable groups affected, and they’re not even “home”. This is so gut-wrenching, folks! So this is another cause that you can donate to. Among many others.
Best of all, it doesn’t have to be a lot. A few bucks can go a long way. You may even see people doing fundraisers on Facebook. Check out what causes your friends are donating too and spread the love.