COVID-19 Lockdown relief efforts in Makhanda/Grahamstown, South Africa (by LIV Lukhanyiso) – Food Parcels

LIV Lukhanyiso exists to provide a sustainable solution to South Africa’s growing number of orphan and vulnerable children, and building community is vital to our work. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of vulnerable families and children has grown significantly. In partnership with two local schools, LIV Lukhanyiso has run a successful project to provide food parcels weekly to 110 families in our city during lockdown. These are families with preschool children and most of these children would usually receive their main meal at school. Our aim is to continue to support these children until they can return to school.

Photo by Lara Kruiskamp, founder of LIV Lukhanyiso

Our motto is Together We Can – and it is in times like these that we can clearly see that we can do far greater things when we work together for a common purpose. We are seeing relationships being built and strengthened as sponsors, local businesses, schools and volunteers all work together and come alongside those in need. The project has also created wider exposure for our organisation’s work with vulnerable children. The food parcels provided will keep the children fed and nourished to avoid the child development challenges hunger and malnutrition cause.

We have been running fundraising initiatives for our organisation for a number of years, although successful, the response we have seen for this project has been unprecedented. We have learned that particularly individual donors prefer to give towards a cause that has immediate returns. We have also learned that beneficiaries are far more grateful than what is normally articulated. With more beneficiaries now with cell phones, this gratitude is easier to get across and it serves as a great connector between our beneficiaries and our donors.

Story shared by Nomonde Ndlangisa, South Africa

More info here or contact nomonde@liv-lukhanyiso.com

The Digital Book Garden

Public libraries are storehouses of books and educational materials, but also often community gathering places– usually a good thing. But in times of pandemic, those same libraries are places that need to be avoided. So how can libraries serve their public while their buildings are physically closed? Here’s one of many examples: The Norwood Public Library, in a suburb near Boston, established a “digital book garden.” Library visitors find signs outside the building with the name of a book and a QR code (a two-dimensional barcode). By pointing your smartphone at the code, you can download an eBook or audiobook.

The Norwood Public Library

This and other electronic innovations have proven popular. The Norwood library reports a doubling of its digital resources since the physical library was closed. And other area libraries have reported a doubling of electronic library card sign-ups in recent months.

When faced with adversity, libraries, as well as other institutions and organizations, must find new ways to serve the general public, regardless of economic status or other conditions. And especially in times of pandemic, when more people are confined to home and fewer stores are open, the dual desires to escape from daily life and to learn new things are both stronger than ever. We may therefore expect more such creative initiatives, largely focusing on electronic resources, in the future.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.

More info here or at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu

Laughter in a Time of Crisis

The city of Juneau, in the U.S. state of Alaska, normally has a hiking hotline for those seeking volunteer-led walks in the area. But when the pandemic struck, hiking programs were suspended. The hotline might have been suspended too, but local officials had a very different idea. They decided what was needed in this challenging time were some light-hearted moments, and a chance to laugh. So they turned their hiking phone number into a laugh line. Anyone who called heard a pre-recorded joke, usually with a bad pun. Example: “What kind of music is scary for balloons?” “Pop music!”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

According to reports, the new laugh hotline was an immediate success — so much so that the line became overloaded. And suggestions for jokes have been received from across North America.

This example shows that it’s possible to turn a difficult situation into something positive and beneficial It does take creativity, and the ability and willingness to go beyond usual boundaries. It was surprising that the laugh line attracted so many people. But in a stressful time, laughter is a good coping tool, which helps people stay connected. And people need to laugh. In the words of a local parks and recreation employee, “After all, laughter is the best medicine.”

To hear a joke on the hotline, call (907) 586-0428. To submit a joke for hotline consideration, contact Parks.rec@juneau.org.

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, United States of America.

More info here or at Bill_Berkowitz@uml.edu

Huerto Comunidad Coop San Francisco

More than the Covid 19, we have earthquakes, and we are still recovering from a strong hurricane. Our community is a Cooperative house system. We have been learning from our complex personalities in a respectful manner. We have notice changes in ourselves. Persons that usually didn’t care about the others are more solidarity. Looking for medicines and food, listen and support with each other. Consciousness of consumerism and marketing medicine are themes we have been actively discussing. We are learning a lot from this pandemic.

Picture by Lídia Martínez

We have more consciousness of how we can change with our community. If we practice solidarity, the community will do it too. Being alert to others suffers is very important.

Communities are the first response to hunger, poverty. Being able to share our material resources is a priority. People change and learn if we begin with ourselves. Modeling is the best.

Story shared by Lydia Martínez Vázquez, Puerto Rico.

More info please contact at lydiamart2000@gmail.com or coopsf_2000@yahoo.es

Stories of Corona everyday life

After the lockdown in the course of the Corona Pandemic almost the whole public life in our small village has come to a standstill. The official community newsletter, which is delivered to every household on Thursday, became thinner and thinner as there was hardly anything to report except the regulation of the lockdown. That is why we started the series “Stories of Corona Everyday Life”.

For 8 weeks now we have been collecting stories about the changes in everyday life during the Corona crisis, the worries and fears, but also encouraging experiences.

A few extracts: A woman reports about her concerns when her husband was ill. When news came that he was negative, she looked after her orchard and saw a stump with new shoots: “That’s what spring looks like – old things fade away, new things grow.” My 85 year old neighbour tells how she lacks contact to other people, but many have offered help. The football player misses the sociability and weekly structure given by football. He’s constantly thinking about what he would normally doing right now. And a group of women has started sewing face masks almost in piecework.

We get very personal stories, which are also an expression of the overall social situation and uncertainty. However, every story contains not only uncertainty, loss or concern, it also contains new perspectives and positive experiences that encourage others. The citizens’ stories are now eagerly awaited. Last week, the community newsletter was delivered one day later on Friday. This has caused many to go to the mailbox again and again and to ask the neighbours if they already had the newsletter.

Story shared by Luise Behringer, Germany.

More info here or contact luise.behringer@ksh-m.de

Social Hackathons vs Corona

Around March 15, 2020 German Start-Up-Companies, the Open Knowledge Foundation, the Social Entrepreneurship Foundation, Impact Hub Berlin and a large group of ‘Techies’ collaborated with the German Government in a call on a nation-wide hackathon to cope with social consequences of corona. Within one week, more than 40.000 participants, more than 2.000 innovators and 3.000 mentors registered and joined in a 48-hour hackathon.

As a result, hundreds of project ideas how to cope with corona have been developed within one weekend, 200 projects have been selected for a short-list and 20 projects received funding awards.

As a consequence, regional coworking spaces and other urban and rural initiatives are planning social hackathons in their region.

Social Hackathons may be future tools for addressing challenges in communities and local regions. May attract specifically young people of the area who could collaborate with administration, politicians and business people. Easy to be supported and funded by local companies and administrations.

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany.

More info here.

Girls spread hope to those in need

Girls Gang, a community action group for teenage girls in a disadvantaged community produced positive posters to be included in food packages being sent to families experiencing poverty and hardship during lockdown. The group wanted to do something to help the community but felt limited in ways they could enact their citizenship during lockdown. Messages in the posters included words of hope, tips for coping with lockdown and also telling residents that they were not alone.

Picture by West Cumbria Community Action Trust

Recipients of the care packages told the coordinators that the posters helped to lift spirits at times when anxieties were high. It also provided the girls with an opportunity to enact their civic citizenship under the civic restrictions imposed under lockdown.

Class based inequalities are being exacerbated during the lockdown but working class and poor communities are finding creative ways to support one another.

Story shared by Suzanne Wilson, United Kingdom.

More info here or at swilson21@uclan.uk

Music and Culture is Building New Communities

It started as a ‘wow’-event for me when in Italy hundreds of people started to sing each day form their balconies during the first days of the lock-down. Then a semi-professional opera choir launched an online version of Verdi’s ‘Va Pensiero’. In the meantime, thousands of musicians and other artists started regular live community and online events all over the globe.

Picture by International Opera Choir

People meet neighbors they never met before, try to encourage and support each other by using one of the ‘general languages’ of our societies – which has always been ‘music’. Music and other cultural events create a special feeling how people can belong to and help each other in a common crisis. At the same time, especially music touches emotions and can ease stress and pain.

It has been amazing how fast people in diverse cultures turn to the common language of art and music to cope with a crisis that is beyond imagination. Perhaps such a crisis can remind us that even minor cultural events can be crucial for building a sense of community and belonging.

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany

More info here.

Strengthening our sense of connection in the immediate locality

The street I live on has 36 private houses set back from the road. We don’t see one another come and go, people have lived on this street for twenty or so years and only know their immediate neighbours. When the likelihood of a lock down threatened I made fliers and invited people to join a street support group. It gave everyone the chance to introduce themselves and suddenly the street became a hive of community chat and mutual support.

95% of the residents have joined a WhatsApp group and others use land line contact. We have collected shopping for one another, enjoyed sharing film footage of a fox in a garden one night, worked out whose cats are visiting each others’ gardens and made fabric face masks for neighbours. We are organised a sponsored walk through just giving to raise funds for a local company to provide child friendly visors for NHS staff. On this walk we will all walk the route of the street simultaneously maintaining our social distance.

It is a shame that it has taken something like this to be a valid excuse to cold-call neighbours. Many of our residents are elderly and socially isolated and making contact with people nearby has been a real bonus. It has also been a great reassurance to their family who would normally visit to know they have a whole street ready and willing to connect and support.

Story shared by Jill Simpson, United Kingdom.

More info contact jillsimpson81@hotmail.com

Do-It-Yourself Lowell

Several years ago, a young couple moved to the mid-sized city of Lowell, Massachusetts. They became attracted to the city’s diversity and spirit, and soon wanted to give something back to their new community. But without money or special expertise, what could they do?

Lowell (Mass, USA), City of Lights Parade

After some thought, they hit upon the concept of “Do-It-Yourself Lowell.” Its goals were to generate ideas for community events and projects and work together on them. By so doing, they could also create lasting civic improvements, enhance civic engagement skills, and build diversity.

The concept itself was very simple. Any resident could submit a community idea, and other residents would vote for the best. The winning ideas would receive funding leads and guidance, technical assistance, and publicity for community volunteers to transform the idea into reality.

Do-It-Yourself Lowell soon caught on; it has received hundreds of community-building suggestions, many of which can be found on its website, and some of which have been put into practice. Some examples: a mobile bike repair truck, a traditional medicine festival, a children’s tea party, a Quarantine Café (following the coronavirus outbreak).

Story shared by Bill Berkowitz, USA.

To learn more, contact at www.diylowell.org