Should you volunteer during the pandemic? 5 steps to help out safely

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If you have the time and desire to help out, then yes, you should absolutely volunteer. People like you are badly needed especially at this time. Aside from making a positive contribution to your community, volunteering will be a good way to ease your own feelings of helplessness and isolation during this pandemic.

You have many options for volunteering. You can do it informally by running errands for your neighbours and friends, donating to causes, or even sewing face masks and donating it to health care workers. You can also apply to an organization that provides services to specific groups, especially those who are underserved at this time. Nowadays you can do volunteer work in person or online.

Before getting out there, consider these five steps before volunteering to ensure the safety others as well as yours:

  1. Ensure that you are healthy enough to volunteer

    If you’ve just arrived in Manitoba from outside of Canada, make sure that you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms (use the Self-Screening Tool) and you have completed the mandatory quarantine. Older adults or those with underlying medical concerns should consider online volunteering programs or those that have minimal exposure to risk.

  2. Ensure that your household is protected

    Even though you feel healthy, joining an in-person volunteer program may pose a risk if you are living with someone who is part of the high-risk group (older adults, those with serious health conditions, immunosuppressed individuals). But whether or not you’re living with a high-risk individual, it is important to follow public health and safety recommendations. This includes physical distancing, handwashing, wearing a mask and sanitizing surfaces. This keeps you and the people you serve safe, and prevents you from bringing home the virus.

  3. Have a clear idea about your skills and abilities

    Organizations do provide training for certain positions but this may be limited at this time. Match your skills and experience with the right volunteer opportunity so you can contribute right away. Special skills such as counselling, logistics or sewing and cooking are sought after at this moment. Also take some time to assess your intentions before volunteering. Ask yourself: What do you hope to get out of volunteering? This can help you narrow down your options and help you make the most out of the experience.

  4. Be honest about how much time you are willing to commit

    Be realistic about the time you have for volunteering. Volunteering is a commitment. People will rely on you when you agree to an assignment. It may be better to start small and take on less volunteering responsibilities if this is your first time. Balance your time for work and personal responsibilities to minimize stress.

  5. Know and practice public health directives

    In-person volunteering opportunities will require you to wear a mask, observe physical distancing and follow other health directives such as frequent handwashing. They may also do health screening before you’re allowed to enter the premises. Think twice if you have medical conditions or personal preferences that prevent you from following such requirements.

Volunteer opportunities in MB:

Jobs ranging from food delivery to food drives in your community:

  • Help Next Door MB – A platform that connects Manitoba residents who are unable to leave their homes (elderly, disabled, vulnerable) with those who are willing to help them with errands such as grocery shopping, picking up medication, or emergency snow clearing, and others.
  • Meals on Wheels Winnipeg – Volunteers pick up and deliver meals to seniors, elders, people living with disabilities and those recovering from injuries.
  • Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre – Needs drivers who can make deliveries to seniors and families. Email for more information.
  • Agape Table – Needs volunteers who can help prepare and serve breakfast, as well as volunteers for food bank operations.
  • Winnipeg Harvest – Volunteers needed for packaging and sorting food donations.
  • Oak Table – Needs individuals and groups who can help organize food drives and fund raising activities.
  • Mutual Aid Society Winnipeg (Serve the People Hot Meal Program), Winnipeg Community Response to COVID 19 – Facebook groups that connect people who need help and volunteers who can answer calls for assistance.

Caregiving, support and others:

Sources: Volunteering during COVID-19: A how-to guide, University of Manitoba; How and where to volunteer during the Coronavirus pandemic, Becky Upham, Everyday Health; and Health and safety considerations for volunteering during a public health emergency, Volunteer Canada. Accessed September 23, 2020.

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Community Resources

Read 5 steps to apply successfully for a volunteer position to help you prepare for the screening process.

To give you more perspective about volunteering in Canada and how it contributes to nation-building, read the Canadian Code for Volunteer Involvement and The Screening Handbook (Tools and resources for the voluntary sector) by Volunteer Canada.

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