How to volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic

Give back and have fun, all while staying safe

Hunter Keaster/Talon

That dreadful feeling of hopelessness — if you’re like me, it’s a feeling that keeps crawling and scratching its way back to you during the COVID-19 pandemic. It all just seems to be out of our control. Worst of all, we can’t even help our community through volunteering because of social distancing guidelines. Right? 


There are plenty of ways that you can give back to your community while staying safe. By far, the most secure way to volunteer during a deadly pandemic is through online volunteering. 

The organization Zooniverse hosts a website that crowd-sources data and research from volunteers of all ages. For example, you can help scientists measure the curvature of spiral arms in galaxies by examining pictures of space. These time-consuming tasks would take years for a single scientist to get through on his or her own. However, with the help of thousands of people from around the world, the task can get done much sooner. 

But if galaxies aren’t your forte you could try: monitoring the population of seals through GPS tracking, fighting antibiotic-resistant bacteria by examining data from clinical trials or even help find rural homes in Africa that are in need of electrical access.

I personally have begun digitally volunteering with the Smithsonian and I recommend it to anyone interested in history or literature. Volunteers transcribe handwritten manuscripts from different periods of history into typed transcripts. This allows historians, genealogists, and analysts to search words or names that they need for research. Signing up is incredibly easy and you’ll feel like a real-life Sherlock Holmes in no time.

If you wish to branch outside of the online world, there are some opportunities to give back that involve in-person work. Many teen groups, such as Teens Helping Seniors, are offering grocery delivery services for senior citizens and immuno-compromised groups. Other establishments such as food banks still require volunteers to stock supplies and help out those in need. It is important to keep in mind that these sorts of activities do come with a health risk and to weigh your options wisely. 

During this time, it is important to volunteer for more than just the sake of appealing to college admissions officers. People around the world are struggling because of the economic impact of COVID-19. We as the youth ought to do everything we can to pull our community together to triumph over the pandemic. We must be more than pseudo-philanthropists trying to convince colleges that we are worth their letters of acceptance. Our duty is to help.