I’m struggling to write this post in a nonviolent way—you know, when I’m not just mansplaining stuff but actually saying how I feel, without imposing on you all. Anyway, I guess I could start like this:
Volunteering and charity work has always been a challenge to me. I often find it difficult to approach strangers, and I am often afraid of those who are suffering. This is all very irrational, and I usually can’t decide how to manage it: should I force myself to go out there, or should I come to terms with my limitations? Then again, if I’m volunteering from my comfort zone, does it really count as volunteering?
Today, I was volunteering from my armchair (actually, I’m standing when I work, but you get the picture). I was giving minor technical assistance to a community translation project—a group of translators, doctors, and translator-doctors are creating a comprehensive COVID-19 information site in Hungarian: https://www.covid1001.hu/. It felt good. (And I can recommend this project and this site with all my heart.) But did I feel good about myself—was my occasional bad conscience appeased? Or, was this a kind of empowering good feeling—will this doing of some little good actually prompt me to do more?
I didn’t want to start this post like this at all. What I thought of at first was—how good is it that we have this little thing called the Internet and social media while being confined? How worse could we have it without them? This is proof – as many others already said it – that the Internet and social media and collaboration platforms and video streaming providers are public utilities, not some nice-to-haves in our lives. They keep us connected and they keep us productive. (And that’s why I sometimes think that the public could use some more control over them, but that’s beside the point today.)
What we need to realize is that… this is a big fat privilege.
Problem is, many people actually have it worse. Social workers over here say that at least one-fifth of kids between grades 5 and 8 don’t have proper Internet access or a device they can use. So, school is practically inaccessible to them. The Digital Divide actually becomes a real existential divide, and it deepens the chasm between the rich and the poor.
Forget the internet, some kids (thousands, actually) only had proper meals at school only. Now that schools are closed, those meals are now missing and the kids go hungry. In the European Union.
Think of those who are confined together with their abusers. And think of those who cannot stay home but must expose themselves to the virus every day. Without proper protective gear. Think of those who lost their jobs, or their access to healthcare.
After the virus is gone, there will still be a lot of mending to do.
The thing is, I can’t unfeel this. Any work I do, corporate or charity, seems ridiculously insufficient in the light of what these people have to endure. I can find excuses – after all, we’re working in my company to keep all the jobs, and I’m also volunteering, from my armchair, here or there. But those other problems simply seem more real.
And this whole thing makes me feel powerless, being confined to my armchair. But I promise you, we will find a way to help. We must.
One of the genuine efforts in Hungary to help children in poverty is the Real Pearl Foundation. (They were of course doing it before the virus, too.) The writings of their founder, Nóra L. Ritók, are very powerful; they don’t let you forget that children, in the same country, live in unimaginable misery. (Most of the pages and writings are available in Hungarian only, though. Sorry about that.)
I’m sure your countries have similar organizations. I guess you could seek them out and help them if you can.
And I just saw that my company posted a frolicky handwashing video where I can be seen goofing off. This just about sums up my day. Go figure.