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Stories of hope from a resilient global community
May 19, 2020
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This post is sponsored by Philip Morris International

The notion of good corporate citizenship has been around for a long time, but the role that not only companies, but also individuals can play in civil society becomes more evident than ever in a moment of crisis.

The current economic lockdown to quell COVID-19 has created numerous challenges that go beyond its impact on global health. In the US alone, 20.5 million jobs were lost in April and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7%. The International Labour Organization estimates that the equivalent of 195 million job losses worldwide could result from COVID-19 related slowdowns.

Many of those out of work, and those who were already struggling, are faced with lack of access to basics, such as food, clothing and a place to live. At the same time, traditional crisis relief organizations that rely on government funding, such as intergovernmental organizations and nonprofits, are seeing their resources stretched thin.

The good news is that many people, communities and companies are coming together to address some of those problems. Not only do these examples offer hope, they demonstrate how a well-connected community can come together to respond to a crisis more effectively. To not only fight the health effects of the pandemic, but enable an improved community recovery in the longer term.

Senior Citizens

Efforts worldwide were stepped up to protect the senior members of communities. With older people more vulnerable to the virus, and many of their loved ones maintaining social distance to keep them safe, companies are stepping up to provide support. Like many grocery and drugstores, Woolworths Australia has introduced a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and people with disabilities so they can have extra space to shop safely. Applebee’s in the US has started delivering food to seniors, and bands of volunteers in several countries are delivering groceries and other essentials as well.

Housing

People living on the streets and in homeless shelters face different exposure challenges than others with easier access to social distancing best practices. To keep the virus from spreading among these at-risk populations, many cities have temporarily housed homeless people in hotels that are otherwise largely empty during the shelter-at-home rules. Intercontinental Hotels Group is just one chain that stepped up and offered 300 rooms to the London government for this purpose. At the same time, frontline workers who want to protect their families from infection have also needed a place to isolate. Last month, Airbnb gave its hosts the ability to open their homes up to these workers with the goal of connecting 100,000 people with housing.

Mental Health

Given the many emotional challenges of this moment, mental health services are more crucial than ever. In New York, more than 6,000 mental health professionals volunteered to staff a free hotline for people to call if they need support. Another hotline launched to help women who are pregnant cope with the particular challenges they face. A general help line came from the Boston Globe, which launched Boston Helps, a website to connect people with the ability to help with those who need it – whether it is groceries, meals, or transportation.

Bridging the National Divide

Reaching out a helping hand has even shown up across governmental lines. While the pandemic has affected nearly every country in the world, not all have been hit the same way. As it spread in Italy and quickly overwhelmed the health care system there, Germany stepped up to bring Italians to its hospitals for treatment. The country has done the same for patients in Alsace, a region of France with particularly high cases. Countries have also been sharing excess medical supplies as a way of helping each other quell the virus.

Communities Stepping Up

There are many other examples that range from large corporate entities down to individual philanthropists who want to make a positive difference during the pandemic. Local restaurants are donating food to frontline workers and major multinationals are diverting their manufacturing facilities to produce masks and ventilators A 9-year-old in California is using his 3D printer to make face shields for healthcare workers. A British soccer team is offering up its hotel to house medical staff. New York City running clubs are putting their muscles to work by delivering essential goods to people vulnerable to the virus.

All these efforts demonstrate the good that can come when communities come together to solve societal problems. The current crisis has highlighted the potential for collectivism to improve lives, but the opportunity to work together and strengthen community ties is always there for the taking.

Read more on how communities can come together in challenging moments:

Disaster collectivism: How communities rise together to respond to crises, via Shareable

Apple, Ford, and GM are stepping up to address global shortages of ventilators, hand sanitizer, face masks, and gowns. Here's a running list of companies helping out, via Business Insider

'Without empathy, nothing works.' Chef José Andrés wants to feed the world through the pandemic, via Time

Meet the companies manufacturing face masks to plug coronavirus shortages, via NS Medical Devices

7 grants helping small businesses impacted by coronavirus, via WWD.com

Stories of hope, via Obama.org

The nonprofits and companies helping to fight the pandemic, via Wired

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