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Self-Isolator’s Help Desk
This image, by Unknown Author, is licensed under CC BY-SA

How Can I Help Others If I Am Self-Isolated?

The risk of catching Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on society and many social commentators are comparing the isolationary lockdowns to that of a war-time situation and talking about how people are pitching in (the war-time spirit) to help those in need – shopping for the self-isolated elderly, checking up on lonely isolated people, providing local support groups for parents with childen off school, and so on. I would also like to offer support in some way. I’m 78 and, at the moment, fit and healthy but like most others in my age group, I am self-isolated at home and thus severely restricted in terms of mobility and contact with others. So, how can I help others if I am self-isolated?

I entered the question into Google and found a number of generic “How can I help?” answers that ignored the “if I am self-isolated” part of my question. I also found a lot of advice on what you can and can’t do if you are self-isolating including this gem in a New York Times article:

Can I go to the supermarket?
Yes, buy as much as you can at a time to minimize the number of trips, and pick a time when the store is least likely to be crowded. New York Times, 18 March 2020.

Stockpiling is alive and well in New York.

A 17 March 2020 article in The Guardian stated that there are now more than 1,200 Covid-19 mutual aid groups across the UK but these are groups of volunteers who are offering help to the self-isolated, not volunteers from within those who are self-isolated.

I also looked on Facebook but nothing came up. I don’t tweet so I don’t know what’s available through this social media platform.

So, what can I, or other like-minded self-isolators, do? Here’s my thinking.

Determine Skill Set, Identify Beneficiaries, Advertise Services
The images used in this composite are by Unknown Authors, and are licensed under CC BY-SA

First, make a list of what skills you have that might be of benefit to others. In my case, these would be skilled user of Microsoft Office tools (Word, PowerPoint, Excel), internet researcher and article writer, author of books and associated copy-editing and proof-reading skills, basic website construction using WordPress, able to help out with rudimentary Windows 10 and iOS questions, and ex-teacher/lecturer up to university level. It’s a bit like writing a résumé!

Second, identify those who could benefit from your help i.e. your target beneficiaries. For me, that would include any small business that requires temporary MS Office how-to help, online tutoring of children off school who need help in English (grammar and creative writing) and mathematics (and maybe other subjects), lonely people who would just like to chat by email or WhatsApp, and those who need answers to “How do I do this on a Windows machine or an iPad?” questions. (I might not know all the answers but I’ll do my best to find out.)

Third, work out how to reach your target beneficiaries. This is the tricky part. I’m not a skilled user of social media platforms although these platforms would be an obvious way to advertise your availability. Maybe through a blog like this but how many people read blogs such as mine? Not a lot. Maybe advertise in local community publications or via national publications such as newspapers? Or maybe through local borough councils or community noticeboards? I’m open to ideas.

Finally, there are a few other considerations, as follows:

– Payment for services rendered. I would not require payment for anything I do. I’m not offering my help to earn money but some helpers might see it more as a money-earning opportunity.
– Qualifications, technical skills and vetting. For some things, such as online tutoring of school children, it may turn out that I would need some form of qualification or training and even though the schooling is remote, I may need to be vetted i.e. a criminal records check. Additionally, how do I demonstrate that I am qualified to advise in my chosen topics? I can state my educational qualifications but that’s no guarantee that I can do what is listed in my skill set.
– Insurance. Do I need insurance against offering wrong advice to, say, a small business?
– Physical restrictions. I am sufficiently hard of hearing to cause me to shun telephone calls. How might this affect, say, online tutoring or interaction with a small business?
– Risk of abuse. How do I convince someone that I’m not out to scam them and that I would respect the confidentiality of what they send me?
– Internet overload. There’s already talk that as more people work from home, the internet will become overloaded. How will this affect my commitments to others to help within a given time period?
– And finally, what when the world returns to normality and my services are no longer required by those I have helped? I may have enjoyed working to a timescale and being challenged on technical topics again (reminiscent of when I was a professional electronics consultant) and regret the loss.

The ability to help others from within a self-isolation cell is, apparently, not that easy to do. If you have any thoughts on the topic, use the Leave a Comment option above, just under the title, and send them to me.

With Fat Betty on the Coast-to-Coast long-distance path, 2010