The world has been engulfed by the current health crisis surrounding the coronavirus, Covid 19. We have seen global travel come to a halt and local businesses closed indefinitely. As a charity fundraising by offering cooking classes in Bangkok, we have also been impacted by the abrupt end to tourism.
The quiet days however, have given us plenty of time to brainstorm how we as an organization can make a difference in the communities we serve in Bangkok. Like a lot of communities around the world there are areas of the city that have all the perfect conditions for rapid spread of the virus, including: poor sanitation, compact and crowded housing, varied language and cultural contexts
This has forced us to ask difficult questions about the likelihood of an outbreak in those areas, and hypothesize about our response. Today we want to share a few ideas with you, and invite everyone, whether organizations or individuals, to start thinking strategically about assisting the most vulnerable during this time.
Feel free to adapt and expand these ideas for your locality, and to share them with others. We encourage everyone to give to organizations helping this fight, and don’t forget you can make calls and advocate online from the safety of your home.
1) Free Testing and Treatment
The easiest way to help vulnerable people is to make sure they have access to testing and treatment freely. This should happen regardless of people’s ability to pay, or nationality.
“We can’t treat what we can’t track…”
While different governments have had different policies, those most successful in combating the spread understand made testing widely available. We can’t treat what we can’t track, and this virus is unique in its ability to be spread by people with few or no symptoms. If there is no policy for testing and treatment for those at risk, please continue to advocate a vocal advocate for this crucial need on and off line.
2) Quarantine or Isolation Beds
Space is a luxury many communities do not have. While social distancing has become a common term for many, the tactic to prevent the spread is unrealistic, especially in crowded cities. One idea would be to look at repurposing space in communities to provide quarantine or isolation areas. This may mean different things in different places. For some communities the priority may be on housing the homeless temporarily, while other highly dense areas could provide food and shelter to elderly or immunocompromised people most at risk. This may mean rethinking how best community spaces like schools, community centers, and others can best serve. Communities can even repurpose unused space or buildings.
3) Soap & Sanitation Stations
Provide free access to sanitation and supplies that help prevent the spread of the disease. This may mean complex projects like portable sinks or showers, or be as simple as makeshift community refilling stations where people can bring their containers and refill on soap. Masks could be provided freely, or people can learn in small groups how to repurpose household items as makeshift masks and face guards. Weather permitting, this could be done in open air areas in small groups, but it may be best to make these solutions portable to prevent crowding, and reach people with limited mobility.
4) Food Sponsorship Programs
One of the essential businesses allowed to continue operating are restaurants. We can support these local businesses and lean on their relationships with the community to serve the most vulnerable. A simple program would allow me to purchase a meal, while providing a meal to someone else. In turn, restaurants could provide food, cash, or products to local organizations — or even give it our directly to people. Partnerships with schools, churches/ temples, and community centers would speed this response.
5) Donate to Existing Organizations
Find an organization in your area and donate. Choose large and small organizations to support, and especially those who already have programs in place for assisting the sick, elderly, or vulnerable communities.
Keep in mind organizations are under a lot of pressure. They have to provide aid while protecting their staff, and insuring while helping people they are not spreading the virus from one place to another. Remember as the economic impact worsens, small charities who really depend on small $10-$100 individual donations, will see many of these resources dry up.
6) Jail & Detention Moratorium
Included in the communities most at risk to the spread of disease are the incarcerated. We should remember them during this time and be sure they have the supplies and care needed. In most cases you can assume they do not.
Governments should also not use this time to enforce petty laws or warrants. Compassionate responses would include a moratorium on immigration raids and arrests as well. However, it is unlikely government will come to these conclusions on their own and we can be busy advocating for such solutions online or sharing petitions for such calls.
Knowing this can be controversial, we would like to reiterate that this isn’t forgiveness of immigration status, or an end to law enforcement. Instead, it should allow enforcement to focus on the most serious issues, and provides some consideration for exposure and spread of the virus by law enforcement agencies.
7) Bolster Neighborhood Clinics & Pharmacies
We have to do what we can to make sure people can get the medicine they need nearby. This is essential for non covid related issues, and for people whose symptoms are mild enough to recover from the virus at home. This also relieves some pressure from our hospital systems, who are already being overwhelmed in so many places around the world.
8) Sponsorship for the Pregnant and Elderly
Sign up with an org today to sponsor a pregnant woman, or someone who has recently given birth. Make sure these women have the protection and transportation they need to get to hospitals safely. Remember this should include a long term vision for check ups, immunizations, and emergencies. Support for food and housing also helps ensure women and their children are safe and supported during this crisis.
There are so many neglected elderly people everywhere in the world. In addition to checking up on people in your own family, make sure people who don’t have family or resources are well cared for, whether that’s providing cash, groceries, or a friendly weekly checkup call for people who are even more isolated than usual right now.
9) Free Mental Health and Mourning Resources
Are we prepared for the conversation we need to have about mourning people we’ve lost? How do we do this from a distance? Do impoverished communities have the resources they need to deal with the death and burial of someone who dies at home?
There are so many questions to answer about mental health and mourning during this period. While they may seem peripheral to so many other pressing concerns, we should be careful not to be blindsided by the compounding ramifications of the loss of a loved one, isolation, and financial instability.
10) Free Wifi
Sounds simple, but lets not underestimate how much this could make a different in at risk communities.
Having good information and the ability to connect with people from afar has never been so important. Let’s remember people who may not have regular access to the internet, or whose services may be impacted because of loss of work by someone in their family.
Online communication also eases the burden of organizations who may be deciding which situations are most urgent, especially in changing rapidly cases. If people are connected they can be provided information, have that information translated, be entertained, and even talk face to face with volunteer doctors and nurses who can save time and reduce risk with such activities.
We hope these ideas have been helpful for you! Please help us to share and kindly consider visiting our donation page to support our work in Thailand.