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How can I help? 10 ways stay-at-homers can support the coronavirus fight in Ireland

Donations, volunteering, local shopping and simple thank you cards are all ways families can help during the Covid-19 crisis

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Staff at the National Maternity Hospital with a delivery from East Road Cafe. Photo: FeedTheHeroes.com

Staff at the National Maternity Hospital with a delivery from East Road Cafe. Photo: FeedTheHeroes.com

Staff at the National Maternity Hospital with a delivery from East Road Cafe. Photo: FeedTheHeroes.com

So you're not fighting on the Covid-19 frontline, but you want to help.

What can you do?

That's a question many stay-at-homers are asking. We're social distancing and following HSE guidelines. But many of us want to do more.

Of course, not everyone can. With jobs lost and futures uncertain, it's as much as many can do to keep their families fed and housed.

Others, however, may have some cash, time or energy to donate, or may find salaries unchanged even as they spend less on commuting, shopping or socialising.

"Every donation matters in this moment," says Denise Fitzgerald, Chief Executive of the Children’s Health Foundation. "Be that the price of your morning coffee, or your daily commute.”

Here are a few places to start.

1. Be careful

Pause before you give or donate.

Sadly, the coronavirus crisis has also seen an outbreak of scams, with An Garda Síochána warning of "bogus charity collectors".

Nobody should be carrying out street or door-to-door collections at this time, and you should be wary of emails and online ads. Do not click on un-solicited links and double check before transferring money.

The Charities Regulator is Ireland's national regulator for charities, and you can search registered charities by name on its website.

The Irish Independent has also verified the options below.

2. Help our hospitals

As the Covid-19 emergency develops, the needs of hospitals are changing. Directly donating is one step you can take.

Dublin's Mater Foundation has a Covid-19 fund, for example, while CUH Charity fundraises for Cork University Hospital (on the donate page, you can choose 'Covid-19 appeal' among options on a drop-down menu).

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Staff at The Coombe in Dublin receive a delivery from East Road Café, facilitated by the FeedTheHeroes.com. Photo: Twitter / @feedtheheroes1

Staff at The Coombe in Dublin receive a delivery from East Road Café, facilitated by the FeedTheHeroes.com. Photo: Twitter / @feedtheheroes1

Staff at The Coombe in Dublin receive a delivery from East Road Café, facilitated by the FeedTheHeroes.com. Photo: Twitter / @feedtheheroes1

While the HSE allocates medical and equipment supplies to hospitals, charities like these work with management to decide how best to use donations at a given time, explains Maeve Power of CUH Charity.

"At the moment, they're focusing on creating wellness areas where staff can go to get away from the hustle and bustle of their departments," she explains.

"People have already been really, really good," she says of donations.

3. Food & PPE

"I get home from a shift absolutely exhausted," Dr Fran O'Keefe of Dublin's Mater Hospital told us recently. "For me, being able to have something good, nutritious, tasty and easy to take home [is] a huge thing."

There are a number of drives to help feed healthcare heroes underway across the country, with the biggest - feedtheheroes.com - having raised over €600,000 in little more than two weeks.

Read how it works, or donate here.

Other campaigns include Heroes-Aid, a non-profit set up by public health nurse Mary Leahy and others to supply practical supports like PPE (Protective Personal Equipment), or GoFundMe page #PledgeScrubs.

Together With Our Heroes is a broad appeal launched by CMRF Crumlin and Temple Street Foundation to support frontline workers in children's health during the pandemic.

Donations will go towards essential supplies, meals for frontline staff as well as comforts and supports for patients and their families at CHI at Temple Street, Crumlin and Connolly, it says.

4. Don't forget other charities

Coronavirus has hit charities all over the world, forcing event cancellations and drops in donations even as the needs of the vulnerable grow.

Irish charities "have established relationships with older people, with children and young people, with people with mental health or addiction problems and with homeless people - the very people most hit by the Covid-19 crisis," says Ivan Cooper of The Wheel, Ireland’s national association of community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises.

"It's really important that members of the public continue to support existing charities doing this vital work."

Cancelling Daffodil Day, for example, the Irish Cancer Society's biggest annual fundraising drive, cost a potential €4 million.

But there was good news, too.

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Jack (5) and Conor (20 months) Cregg enjoying the sunshine on the first day of summertime in Naas despite the new restrictions on people's movement due to the corona virus 29/3/2020
Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan

Jack (5) and Conor (20 months) Cregg enjoying the sunshine on the first day of summertime in Naas despite the new restrictions on people's movement due to the corona virus 29/3/2020 Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan

Jack (5) and Conor (20 months) Cregg enjoying the sunshine on the first day of summertime in Naas despite the new restrictions on people's movement due to the corona virus 29/3/2020 Pic : Lorraine O'Sullivan

It has since raised over €1.3m through digital campaigns, text donations and corporate sponsorships, says CEO, Averil Power.

That's proof, she says, that "even in a time of crisis, Irish people are determined to protect and care for the most vulnerable people in our society."

See how you can help cancer services here.

Similarly Pieta House, which supports mental health and anti-suicide measures, is down up to €6m due to the postponement of its Darkness into Light fundraiser. The service itself is still operating. Donate here.

Barnardo's is running a crisis appeal for children. A sample donation of €75, it says, could provide a nourishing food parcel to feed a family of four for one week. Find its donation options here.

Other options include the ISPCC'S Childline, children's hospice LauraLynn or St Vincent de Paul.

April is also World Autism Month, and charity AsIAm is appealing for people to support its online services to help families deal with the change and disruption Covid-19 is causing.

"Autistic people suffer anxiety easily, and so this has become quite extreme for many at this time," explains CEO Adam Harris. "Our community require routine, structure and predictability, all of which have now vanished."

Text ASIAM to 50300 at a cost of €4, or donate online here.

5. Volunteer

Ireland's Community Call was launched this week as "an unprecedented mobilisation" of state and voluntary resources to combat the effects of Covid-19 by co-ordinating community assistance.

The immediate focus is on the elderly and the most vulnerable.

Sign up to help on Alone.ie, or call 0818 222 024 (or find a list of county-by-county numbers on gov.ie) if you need assistance.

Blood donations are also continuing under lockdown - the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (ITBS) remains a frontline service that supplies of blood and platelets to hospitals.

"People are just amazing, really," says Paul Nolan, a clerical officer with the IBTS. Volunteer levels are steady, but a challenge lies in the reduced numbers it can accommodate in clinics.

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Ghost town: O’Connell Street in Dublin is nothing like the busy hub it was
just weeks ago. Photo: Photo: INPHO/ Lorcan Doherty

Ghost town: O’Connell Street in Dublin is nothing like the busy hub it was just weeks ago. Photo: Photo: INPHO/ Lorcan Doherty

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Ghost town: O’Connell Street in Dublin is nothing like the busy hub it was just weeks ago. Photo: Photo: INPHO/ Lorcan Doherty

"Everything is by appointment at the moment; there are no walk-in clinics anymore," he explains. "Social distancing is a big thing for us now."

Learn more with the IBTB's blood donation FAQ.

6. Think local

Another way to volunteer is to do so informally close to home - contacting vulnerable or isolated people by phone, WhatsApp or dropping in notes to let them know that you are available.

However, national volunteering database I-VOL offers the following advice: "Do not assume that someone needs help or call directly to someone’s house unannounced, as some people may be very anxious about making face to face contact."

Offers to individuals might include dropping in food, doing a shop, delivering fuel or prescriptions, or walking a dog.

Staying up to date on local news or Facebook sites can also be a good way to see what's needed in your neighbourhood.

Donegal Chef Aid, for instance, has seen four local chefs, recently made redundant by coronavirus, come together to cook free meals on a voluntary basis for delivery to vulnerable community members.

"We're flying it," says one, Jo Roarty. "Today, we're putting out 151 dinners."

You can donate on its GoFundMe page here.

7. Think global

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World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) speaking next to WHO Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove during a press briefing on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva. Photo: Christopher Black/World Health Organization/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) speaking next to WHO Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove during a press briefing on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva. Photo: Christopher Black/World Health Organization/AFP via Getty Images

World Health Organization/AFP vi

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (L) speaking next to WHO Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove during a press briefing on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) virus at the WHO headquaters in Geneva. Photo: Christopher Black/World Health Organization/AFP via Getty Images

At a global level, the WHO has created a Covid-19 solidarity response fund to support its work to track and understand the spread of the virus; to ensure patients get the care they need and frontline workers get essential supplies and information; and to accelerate efforts to develop vaccines, tests, and treatments.

You can donate here.

8. Get the kids involved

At a set time each weekday, our family now convenes around the kitchen table - taking a break from school, work (or yes, screens) to agree on something small we can do to help.

Ideas have ranged from simple stuff like donating portions of pocket money to Childline to finding local food businesses we can support with orders.

One easy idea with a real feelgood factor is getting the kids to make 'thank you' cards - for your local supermarket, GP, pharmacy or Garda Station, for example. Everyone can then write a message inside.

"This has made our day," our local Garda told me when we delivered it on our 2km exercise walk. "Normally people hate us."

There's another bonus, too.

"Altruism and volunteering are great qualities to develop, and children won't develop them unless they have opportunities to do things for no personal gain," says psychologist David Coleman.

"What you will find in most situations is that when you start giving, it benefits the giver almost as much as the people that you are giving to. The children are going to feel good for doing it."

"Kids love anything that they get involved in, especially from a positive perspective," agrees Jill Holtz of MyKidsTime.ie. Her site recently came up with a list of creative ways to keep in touch with grandparents, for example.

9. Continue to spend

Still receiving your normal salary? You may also be spending less on things like petrol, socialising, commuting or takeaway coffees. But what about childminders or cleaners? Could you help another family by continuing to pay them even if they can't visit or work during the crisis?

Similarly, what about self-employed teachers of activities like pilates, yoga or guitar lessons? Could you continue to pay for lessons online or video call?

You probably have a favourite local restaurant or hotel closed due to coronavirus, too.

Businesses are going through tough times. Why not hop online, check their websites or Facebook pages, and see if they are offering takeaways, deliveries or vouchers for future meals or stays?

Groups like Ireland's blue Book, Original Irish Hotels, the Irish Hotels Federation or Hidden Ireland offer vouchers, for example.

10. Take Five

Yep, this again.

Think of it as your own frontline. It's vital that our families follow instructions on hand washing, coughing etiquette, not touching our faces, physical distancing and isolating if feeling unwell.

By now, eyes may be glazing over at the message - but try this WHO video (above) made with football stars like Lionel Messi, Alisson Becker and Michael Owen. It may catch the kids' attention.

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