Covid Causes Challenges for Volunteers

 Since late February, COVID 19 has turned the system of considered norms in the world and, has caused a change in which we look at those norms leading to a shortage of volunteers. These norms over a period as the virus spread systematically went away leaving behind a path of dried up dreams, hopes, futures, and aspirations, many without a family member and millions without a job.

 When most think of the impact  COVID 19 has had, they think of the economic, social, and financial ramifications that have occurred in our nation, their neighbors and even themselves.  However, the impact goes far beyond what many see or choose to acknowledge, as there is a shortage of volunteers in our region and in the world. 

Rachel Wozniak, the Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement at Hilbert College, said she has seen the impact the virus has had on the volunteer community first hand.

“The Office of Service Learning and Community Engagement has continued to offer limited, regular service opportunities with some of our long-standing community partners, such as Meals on Wheels, Resurrection Life Food Pantry and the Teacher’s Desk,” she said.

Wozniak said some of the typical service learning events on campus such as the Peace Walk and the Day of Service in a more remote way, experiencing and learning one story of St. Francis and by making scarf’s and blankets for the salvation army were still offered this semester.

Hilbert students as whole are conscientious driven individuals who strive to not just better certain organizations, they strive to better the community as a whole, she added.

“The services being offered by these Hilbert Community Partners have had a need even during this terrible pandemic to serve the needy, the poor, and the unprivileged. The essential services that many of our community partners provide are still are offered. However, many of our community partners are limited in the number of volunteers that can serve – both from a health and safety perspective (reduced capacity) and individual comfort-level of the volunteers,” Wozniak said. 

In the Hilbert Community, there is one group of students on campus whose task is to complete hours of service work each semester from Freshmen to Senior year. Dr. Amy Smith is the head of the Honors Program. She said that while the Honors Program has an emphasis on service, due to circumstances caused by the pandemic in recent months the necessary hours for the program from the spring semester have been forgiven.  The pandemic has meant there are fewer opportunities to have direct service. However, new and unique projects have come up as a result, such as opportunities to make videos reading to kids, or to make quick easy projects that parents at home with their remote learning student can do.   

“There are different and creative ways to look at community service, it can be community engagement or community advocacy”, Smith said. “They are still important experiences even if they aren’t community service.”

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