Volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic: “Helping Hand” platform
“I am a volunteer, follow me!”
“Volunteering has effectively changed everything in my life. If I hadn’t taken this decision, I wouldn’t have been where I am now.” – says Keti. She is one of the volunteers of the „Helping Hand” platform, who cannot imagine, what brings better emotions than helping other people. Years ago, Keti was a volunteer in the social therapy house for people with disabilities. “I worked with them, I drew, I read, I talked, I even had dinners with them. I learned a lot from them and hope that I left some good memories for these people as well. Since then, one of the beneficiaries never forgets the date: 26th of March – my birthday. Every year, she sends birthday wishes to me. I have no idea, what can be better than that” – she adds.
“Helping Hand” was one of the first organizations in Georgia to recognize the importance of volunteering. Since 2009, the mission of the organization has been to introduce and promote the culture of volunteering in the country. When it all started, there were no programs offering volunteering opportunities. As volunteering can provide vital help to people in need, “Helping Hand” learned from international experience and pioneered volunteering programs such as “Volunteering – towards social transformation”. This was one of the first projects aimed at promoting volunteerism and the first attempt to initiate the idea of a volunteers’ resource center.
During the pandemic, when the entire country came to a halt, the organization faced numerous challenges. Due to government restrictions, they had to organize volunteering remotely. With the needs of communities becoming even more urgent during the pandemic, the organization’s lack of technical resources made it harder to provide online assistance to those in need. Seeing the growing demand for their service, “Helping Hand” decided to move the existing programs to an online platform, which proved to be impossible without financial support.
Fortunately, support was available from project “Covid 19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability,” funded by the European Union and Implemented by ERIM (formerly IREX Europe) and Human Rights House Tbilisi in Georgia.
“Helping Hand” is one of several organizations that received financial support and started building a new platform – www.helpinghand.ge. More than 50 volunteers and organizations signed up to the platform. They offer volunteering services in Tbilisi and regions. The platform includes organizations that run daycare centers for persons with disabilities or elderly homes and young people who work with persons with different needs. For example, one American volunteer, who is registered through the online platform, voluntarily edits the subtitles of videos about single and homeless mothers who find themselves in the most difficult situation during a pandemic. With her help, the organization spreads information about these women to the general public. “The pandemic pushed me to help other volunteers. I help them to register on the platform and provide them with the necessary information. Despite the challenges the pandemic poses, we can do a lot for each other in this time as well.” – Keti says.
The target audience of “Helping Hand” has been mostly young people, but now the organization aims to also engage adults in volunteering. “The pandemic once again showed us the special importance and power of volunteering. That is why it is necessary and important to involve not only young people but also adults in volunteering, which we have just started with your support. It is also possible to apply about individual cases on the platform and the volunteer can choose who he/she wants to help. We think that this direction will enable us to lay the groundwork for the introduction of volunteer programs for adults. And this way, to find support for the people who need it most.“ – says Tinatin, director of the ,,Helping hand”. The organization’s guiding principle is to connect people who have resources, experience, and knowledge with those who require assistance and solidarity.
The “COVID 19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability,” is a regional project funded by the European Union, led by ERIM (formerly IREX Europe) and implemented by Human Rights House Tbilisi in Georgia. The project seeks to foster the resilience and sustainability of civil society in Eastern Partnership countries enabling them to mitigate the impact of COVID 19. We will be sharing success stories regularly to showcase the impact of the project and the COVID 19 Solidarity support from the European Union.