The pandemic which spread solidarity – not only a virus

The pandemic which spread solidarity – not only a virus

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, many people have found ways, despite their isolation, to help others – to express solidarity and mutual support. Spontaneous actions, born from the free impulse and will of men and women scattered all over the world, have brought relief and comfort to so many. Solidarity has been the positive result of the pandemic – inspiring gestures and actions of various kinds on all levels.

Solidarity during Covid times

At the beginning of the pandemic, solidarity was shown through proclamations of closeness, togetherness. We all went out on our balconies to applaud and sing, children drew rainbows and made videos showing how Covid-19 had changed their daily lives. These trends swept across around the world, testifying to the resilience, creativity, and adaptability of the global society that had to cope with the novel virus.

What happened in the UK is emblematic: a government appeal to recruit volunteers for the National Health Service saw more than half a million people step up – double the assumed target. A wave of solidarity has spread across Europe, and in France, the Tous Bénévoles platform has seen its membership double in 2020, with 40,000 new volunteers. According to Ipsos MRBI statistics commissioned by Volunteer Ireland, the first few months of the virus’ spread saw three-quarters of the population volunteering their time.

Tales of acts of kindness soon replaced stories about people emptying supermarket shelves. And so we found ourselves reaching historic peaks in donations, the likes of which had not been seen for some time. The amount of aid offered by the voluntary sector, by associations, and volunteer and assistance organizations has increased considerably, but at the same time, unfortunately, people’s needs have also grown considerably. The movements in solidarity, which emerged during this health crisis, have certainly involved everyone: private citizens, companies, foundations, non-profit organizations, etc. The first set of data belonging to a study done by Italia non profit – which is still in progress – indicates that the methods of support have been different. Many have offered cash donations (48%, 386 out of 801 total initiatives considered). It is interesting to note that donations of goods and services have increased over time as well and are equal to 38%.

Often, parishes were the first to lend a helping hand, being one of the first points of reference for those who, from one day to the next, found themselves jobless. In Italy, for example, Caritas has registered a 34% increase in the number of “new poor” since the beginning of the pandemic. These individuals have turned to these hubs for food and support in paying bills, mortgages, and medical expenses. According to Caritas, 92,000 families have received diocesan funds.

Solidarity through the web

In most cases, solidarity has spread via the web. On various social media platforms, we have read about hundreds of initiatives for fundraising, making requests, and offering help to those who were most in need. This has happened in basically every part of the world.

This has been such a social phenomenon, on which several studies have focused. In Denmark, for example, the study On solidarity and volunteering during the COVID-19 crisis in Denmark: the impact of social networks and social media groups on the distribution of support , published in September 2020, explains how ‘informal’ civil society, i.e. those not linked to governmental associations quickly managed to mobilize support from individuals. The study focuses specifically on the role of social networks and social media groups and reveals that the vast majority of this support was distributed through existing social networks. The research finds that social media groups played an important role in mobilization, and that support organized on social media is not so different in commitment or type from support organized in other contexts.

Solidarity and the pandemic: a new sign of hope for the future

Perhaps the very impossibility to be together, to socialize, which is a basic human need, has led people to a response of solidarity and generosity as never before. Whoever was able donated their time, money, or goods, and it has been a way of showing affection, closeness, and support. And often, these gestures are not only lovely philanthropic intentions, but also rather signs of grace – of true Christian charity.

It’s as if this incredibly difficult time has made us rediscover our humanity. At first glance, this period seems rather gloomy, and the media has made it seem even worse at times. But, if we have a closer look, the reality is that we have supported each other through this crisis. We have helped each other. This has never been more evident than in this moment: people have shown that they have the resources to be optimistic and altruistic, and to be able to handle even the most difficult challenges. During a crisis, solidarity is the basis of resistance and resilience of any society, but the pandemic has really made us understand how much charity and hope, displayed often through simple gestures of solidarity – of humanity – there truly is in the world.

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