With our daily lives impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, many of us are finding ourselves in an environment of uncertainty and helplessness. It can be empowering, and kind, to find ways to safely help others in our community during this time. If this interests you, we’ve gathered some information from the Government of British Columbia to help you keep safe as you do so. We are also sharing some ideas to safely help those in need.

What to know ahead of time:

Health and safety must always be our top priority. If you’re sick, stay home. If you do go out, protect yourself and others by practicing physical distancing, even while helping others. If you’re not sure what physical distancing looks like, check out our video guide:

Formal volunteering:

Formal volunteering (which means with official or registered groups, clubs and organizations) can be a great way to help in our community. If you already volunteer with an organization, reach out to see if they need additional support. If you don’t currently volunteer with an organization, now is a great time to get involved! Always follow all health and safety guidelines laid out by your organization of choice.

Here are a couple of formal volunteering options suggested by the Government of British Columbia:

  • Donate to food banks. Don’t make assumptions though, please call your local food bank first to find out what they need and how to donate safely.
  • Book an appointment to give blood. The need for an adequate blood supply never stops. Cancer patients, trauma victims and mothers who have complications during childbirth still need our help. Read about how Canadian Blood Services is keeping us safe while donating blood.

Informal volunteering guidelines:

Informal volunteering can be helping anyone in your community who’s in need—particularly vulnerable populations such as seniors or those with underlying health conditions. This may also mean helping those undergoing a quarantine, or even those working in essential services who may need a helping hand.

Here are some general principles to follow regardless of how you want to help out:

  1. Ask first and don’t arrive unannounced. Don’t assume that someone needs something. Before you go to the effort of trying to help someone, find out if they need help and what that looks like. This removes any chance of stress and worry for both parties. Plus, arriving without a plan could lead to a situation that inadvertently facilitates the spread of COVID-19.
    • Instead: call your friend to ask what they need or if you don’t know them well, leave a note of introduction with your contact info and let them know you’re just a call away.
  2. Avoid entering the person’s house. This is to protect both of you from the spread of the virus.
    • Instead: coordinate and communicate so you can drop off essentials safely, without contact and while maintaining physical distancing.
  3. Protect yourself and others. Continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you begin to have symptoms of illness.
  4. Offer without expectations. Be prepared that some people you reach out to may not need your help at this time. You can make sure that they know you’re available if their situation changes.

Some ideas for informal volunteering and how to do it:

  1. Pick up groceries for someone in need. Coordinate with them when they should be dropped off, leave them somewhere easy for the person to access (like their front doorstep), and call to let them know their supplies have arrived
  2. Help with online ordering. Many essentials can now be door-delivered through an online purchase. These services can benefit many people who can’t risk leaving their homes, but they may not know how to use them. You could offer to give them a crash course over the phone, or you could help them by putting through the order on their behalf, with their guidance.
  3. Reach out to those who might be lonely. Offering your company could be just as appreciated as offering supplies. This could be as simple as picking up the phone to call. You could also consider using other forms of communication such as video calling—choose whatever works for you both.
  4. Offer to do some non-contact chores. You could offer to mow the lawn, take out the trash or any other chores that don’t involve going into someone’s home or close contact so the person can stay safely inside. This is particularly important for people who might normally have assistance for these tasks but may not now due to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

If you’re a senior who needs help:

Call 2-1-1 or visit the bc211 website.

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Look through all of our COVID-19 related information on our website.

This is an evolving situation and information is changing all the time, so please go to the source for the most up-to-date information 

Where do we fit in? Yes, we are a provincial regulator. We are responsible for some very specific transactions in BC. We aren’t experts on COVID-19. We won’t – and shouldn’t – ever give medical or legal advice. But we are in a unique circumstance right now and we want to help people navigate the current reality. We don’t have all the answers, but we will do our best to share information from reliable sources, put it in ways that are easy to digest and understand, provide referrals and help you navigate this situation. This is an evolving situation and information is changing all the time, so go to the source for updated information. 

About Consumer Protection BC: We are responsible for regulating specific industries and certain consumer transactions in British Columbia. If your concern is captured under the laws we enforce, we will use the tools at our disposal to assist you. If we can’t help you directly, we will be happy to provide you with as much information as possible. Depending on your concern, another organization may be the ones to speak to; other times, court or legal assistance may be the best option. Explore our website at www.consumerprotectionbc.ca.