Social engagement while social distancing

20 March 2020

Ideas to promote social engagement while social distancing: check in on a friend; lend a helping hand to the elderly or disadvantaged; donate excess goods; create a community; offer your support.With the spread of COVID-19, we’re all suddenly becoming aware of the concept of social distancing (and if you’re still unclear why it’s so important, this clip from Scrubs might help). But for many of us, we’re torn between staying away from people to reduce risks and wanting to help others in our community.

Thankfully, there are a bunch of ways we can achieve both! Here are just a few.

1. Checking in on your neighbours, friends and family

Although we can’t be in close contact, you can still pick up the phone to check how people are going.

If you’re more of a letter type, why not leave cards in your neighbour’s letter box? One wonderful woman called Becky developed a template you can use where your neighbours can identify the type of help they need.

And Italy has proven we can all still socialise with our local community while maintaining social isolation, with group fitness, dance sessions and singing from their balconies!

2. Buying groceries for the elderly or disadvantaged and dropping them at the front door

Even with supermarkets opening up special times for our older citizens and people with disability, many are still unable to travel. On top of that, there are many people with compromised immune systems where going out to get bread and milk is too big a risk. And with delivery services shutting down, it’s getting harder for them to get necessities.

So next time you’re grabbing some groceries, why not send your housebound friend a message to see what they need. You can drop the groceries on their doorstep without any personal contact. Just make sure you wash your hands!

3. Offering goods to friends in need, or donating them

Did you manage to get a few extra rolls of toilet paper? Why not drop them at a friend’s door? (Again, with washed hands).

Or you can follow the example of Di Kilsby and cook up a storm for those doing it tough. You can also look into places nearby to donate any excess food. Our Lanyon Food Hub would particularly appreciate donations of:

  • long-life milk (all types)
  • canned meals
  • canned vegetables
  • pasta sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • baby food.

4. Create a building or neighbourhood Facebook group to chat and share resources

Lots of people have already created online groups to strengthen their communities. Whether this is at the building, neighbourhood, suburb or city level, it means you can pool resources and develop a support network. After all, we’re all in this together.

You can find out if one already exists in your region through #ViralKindness.

We also have a members group on Facebook that you’re welcome to join, to help build your community in this time.

 5. Offer your support

We can all help our communities in this time. Every act of kindness counts, whether that’s through making music to share, thanking the staff at the supermarket, donating to artists who’ve seen their main employment disappear in the matter of days, or just sending cute animal memes to a friend (you might want to look up the Facebook group Squees for all). Together we can use this opportunity to show that we can grow together and support our community.


Finally, remember that even though social distancing can be a scary concept, staying a bit further away from people at this time is an amazing act of community solidarity. It gives our medical system, and those of us at higher risk, a chance of avoiding infection. And of course, unless you’re in a group that needs to fully isolate, social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. You can still go outside, walk your dog, support local cafes and restaurants and volunteer at local community organisations.

At YWCA Canberra, we believe in strengthening communities (it’s part of our mission statement). We believe in a world where people’s actions come from a place of love, compassion, understanding and unity.

That’s why, over the next few weeks, we will be sharing resources and news stories aimed to help in this crisis. We encourage you to share this messaging in your networks, to bring some light into the darkness. And when you share other posts of acts of kindness, please tag us in it so we can see what’s happening and share the kindness.

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