In the week leading up to the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it became clear the virus would have a wide-ranging impact, four students at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine found themselves searching for a way to help.
Knowing the toll the outbreak would take on the health-care system, the students – Jordynn Klein, Daniel Lee, Tingting Yan and Orly Bogler – organized their peers to babysit, fetch groceries and carry out other domestic tasks for health-care workers and hospital support staff who are increasingly at risk of being stretched to the limit.
“Daniel and I reached out to some members of our class to see if they would be interested in designing some kind of initiative to help health-care workers who are on the front line,” Klein says.
Within an hour of putting the call out on Twitter, they had dozens of responses from students who wanted to help in any way possible.
The initiative quickly grew larger than the four medical school students could handle themselves, so they recruited other students in medicine and nursing to help co-ordinate the effort. As of Wednesday, the organizers had signed up over 240 volunteers and have received requests for help from more than 130 health-care workers. Students sign up to volunteer using one online form, while health-care providers fill out another form to ask for help. Already, volunteers have been dispatched all across the Greater Toronto Area.
Nelson Saddler, a second-year medical student, has been putting in six to eight hours per day driving around town in his Hyundai SUV fetching groceries or babysitting. On Wednesday, he did three grocery drop-offs, picking up chicken breasts, fruits and vegetables and salt-and-vinegar potato chips for busy health-care staff.
“These health-care workers are trying to keep us safe and treat our community,” he told U of T News over the phone. “The only way they can keep doing that is by being supported by all of us with the little things – like groceries, pet care – so they can focus.”
Many parents have asked the students for help taking care of their kids now that school has been cancelled to promote social distancing, or because grandparents can no longer look after their grandkids because the elderly are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
“We’ve been receiving a lot of gratitude from those folks for offering some stopgap coverage for them so they can be at work and not worry about who’s going to take care of their child while they’re taking care of other people,” Klein says.
(By Geoffrey Vendeville)