sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

What Can We Do to Help: Virtual Volunteering in Quarantine

By Becki Cohn-Vargas April 12, 2020 Lifestyle

From my “virtual headquarters” at home in California, I’ve been in touch with friends around the world from: England, India, Nicaragua, Israel, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Germany, and across the US.

While sheltering at their homes, many have invented creative volunteer projects: Kathe prepares science kits and drops them off for her grandchildren and their neighbors. Next, she virtually performs the experiments with them.

My daughter, Priscilla, shops for her 90-year-old neighbor, leaving groceries at the door. Randi and Rozzy, friends from high school, are sewing washable mask covers to donate.

Daily, I tutor a second grader and a high school junior. We all have different skills and passions. Below are various opportunities that I found and ensured that each is currently accepting volunteers.

Crisis Text Line: A Great Need at This Time

Although the service probably exists in many countries, I looked up the crisis text lines that operate in the US, Canada, Ireland, and the UK. These are all free text lines for people in crisis, and their volunteers answer texts using active listening and collaborative problem-solving techniques.

Each volunteer receives 30 hours of virtual training in crisis counseling and commits to 4 hours per week until 200 hours are reached. A volunteer wrote, “I volunteer for Crisis Text Line because practicing empathy and reflective listening makes me a better friend, partner, and employee.”

UPchieve Tutoring Anyone?

UPchieve is a free online platform that connects low-income high school students in the US with volunteer coaches to support math instruction and college counseling.

More than 50 million students are out of school due to COVID-19, and low-income students are disproportionately impacted by this shift to digital learning. Compared to their peers, low-income students are less likely to have computers at home and parents who can help with schoolwork.

UPchieve works on any device, making tutoring accessible even on cell phones. You don’t need tutoring experience to be a coach online for UPchieve. They provide tools and training, including subject-specific review materials and a self-paced course on how to be a tutor.

Translators Without Borders (TWB)

Are you fluent in another language? Translators Without Borders writes: “Countries with lower literacy levels need different COVID-19 communication strategies. Information must be accessible.”

To date, thousands of TWB volunteers have translated millions of words of vital information for people who need it most.

Irina, a former lawyer turned volunteer English-Russian translator, has translated a total of 110,220 words into Russian, one of their top 10 most frequently requested languages. With Covid-19 there is a tremendous need. Meet some amazing volunteers.

United Nations Volunteering (UNV) for Vicarious Travelers

The United Nations also contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Organizations and volunteers can team up online to address sustainable development challenges anywhere in the world, from any device.

Hear how a graphics design volunteer from India supported a UN project in Egypt. Check out the 113 current opportunities.

Zooniverse: Want to Do Research? No Experience Needed

Zooniverse is one of the largest online platforms for people-powered research. A reader shared:

“The fun thing about Zooniverse is that there is a great variety of things that need doing and you can spend as much or as little time as you wish on each. For example, I’ve spent time coding Civil War black soldier registrations, counting displaying grouse on a lek, recording when birds fight on a feeder, transcribing abolitionists letters, indexing a restaurant menu collection, etc.”

Do projects from home, even in your PJs. Check these out: Bash the Bug, Anti-slavery Manuscripts, Planet Four, and Rainfall Rescue. The projects have produced many published research papers.

Smithsonian Digital Transcription

Have you visited a Smithsonian museum? Become a digital volunteer and help make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible.

Join others who’ve transcribed and reviewed more than 522,549 pages of field notes, diaries, ledgers, photo albums, manuscripts, and biodiversity specimens since 2013. If you don’t have transcription experience, here’s a chance to learn.

Make DIY Non-Medical Washable Face Masks: #Masks4all

CDC guidance advises Americans to wear non-medical face coverings when out in public. This is not meant to replace social distancing and hand-washing. Nor is it meant to replace surgical masks, which are in short supply for medical professionals. Wearing masks reminds us not to touch our faces.

Japanese Creations offers a pattern, you can sew by hand, and another one that requires no cutting or sewing. Here’s one more for those who have a sewing machine. Many people are making masks for themselves and others.

Project Implicit, Harvard: Check Out Your Biases and Help Others

Harvard researchers are studying how to break down stereotypes. Help by taking online tests in collaboration with researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control.

Their goal is to educate about hidden biases by collecting data on the Internet. A new paper highlights one method that may change both unwanted implicit attitudes and behaviors.

Ebird: Discover the World of Birding and Contribute

While spending lots of time at home, you can watch birds from your window or back yard. Join Ebird, the world’s birding community, because every sighting matters.

Find Anything to Try?

Many more opportunities are out there. Just google “virtual volunteering” and you can find them.

What you are doing to help the world? How did you find this opportunity? Are you helping only in this time of crisis or have you decided to commit permanently? Don’t forget to share How it is going!

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

The Author

Becki Cohn-Vargas, Ed.D, has been blogging regularly for Sixty and Me since 2015. She is a retired educator and independent consultant. She's the co-author of three books on identity safe schools where students of all backgrounds flourish. Becki and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have three adult children and one grandchild. You can connect with her at the links below.

You Might Also Like