Image: Getty Images.
Image: Getty Images.

Covid-19March 27, 2020

How to help, volunteer or donate to the fight against Covid-19

Image: Getty Images.
Image: Getty Images.

Since the country has been told to Unite against Covid-19, many people have been putting their hands up in an effort to help out. But how? Here’s a guide to which organisations have the capabilities to put your energy to good use, and what practical steps you can take to support the community.

Important note to start: The normal rules still apply.

If you are unwell, or have been in contact with someone who has been unwell, you need to stay home. Even if you’re going out to try and be helpful, you might spread illness and end up doing much more harm than good.

You must follow all directives given by the Ministry of Health at all times, and that includes those of the Level Four alert – unless it’s essential, you should be staying at home. Volunteering organisations will be closely monitoring the latest updates. And this all includes all the regular advice around physical distancing, washing your hands, and wearing protective gear as necessary.

And a final point – many of our elderly folk are among the most generous with their time for volunteering, but at the moment those over 70 have to stay home. So for young people, it’s more important than ever that you pitch in.

Without any further ado, here are some ideas:

Stay local: Start your very own version of RongoCare

You can do very simple things in your own community, with just your neighbours. There’s a great how-to guide in this article about the small Manawatū town of Rongotea, which has set up their own version of just that, nicknamed RongoCare.

There are a few points to note about what is important, and what isn’t. The important bits are getting the word out, making sure people are qualified and ready to do what is asked of them, and making contact with people before it all hits the fan. And the not important bits are about the system that you set up to make it work – you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, or design an app. You can just use a roster and an old cellphone.

To find these sorts of groups, a good place to start is Facebook. Just fire it up and search for your local area to see if anything has already been set up, or ask your neighbours if they know of anything.

On a similar note, organise your street

It may be slightly too late to start this, given Level Four restrictions are now in place. But if you’ve already got any sort of street level organisation going, now is the perfect time to put it into action.

Sign up to help the Red Cross

Among the programmes Red Cross runs is the Meals on Wheels service. Right now, a lot of elderly and unwell people are basically going to be confined to their homes. They need hot meals, and this service provides it nationwide. You need to be available on weekdays around lunchtime, and have your own vehicle, and then you’re ready to roll. According to one Facebook post doing the rounds about the Wellington service, there’s a real need for people right now, as many of the existing volunteers are over 70.

Join the Student Volunteer Army

You don’t even have to be a student! The young ones who pitched in during the Christchurch earthquakes are now fully grown, and they’ve launched a national volunteer response to support people impacted by Covid-19.

Basically what they’ve done is set up a ‘matching’ system – they provide the platform for those in need and volunteers to be connected, in order to meet much more varied needs. For example, some frontline health workers will need help with childcare, and that is one of the services that volunteers can provide. Other essential workers will simply need a few errands run. And there are even some volunteering jobs that are basically a metaphor for intergenerational communication – for example, “helping elderly people with online skills such as using Skype or Zoom.” Volunteer jobs can be done either in person, over the phone, or online.

On a similar note, join Support Crew

Support Crew is an online platform aimed at getting people through life-changing events, which is a fairly pressing need right now. That could take the form of practical help (mowing the lawns is one example given,) financial help, or even just some emotional support – checking in on someone isolated with a phone call.

Find you local Volunteer NZ centre

With 17 regional Volunteer Centres around New Zealand, the network has mobilised to take expressions of interest from those available to help during the pandemic. Each centre will be working within their own communities infrastructure, and with Civil Defence. Get in touch with your local centre to connect with opportunities to collaborate. You can find your local volunteer centre here.

For those with medical training, the Home Guard needs you

They’re especially looking for medical students and retired medical professionals to pitch in, amid the likely looming crunch coming for the health system. But anyone with any experience in medicine or care is being called upon. Current full-time mother Dr Andrea Penman explained earlier this month why she decided to launch this programme: “Watching the rapidly evolving threat of Covid-19 from home, I realised I could use my skills to help. My small idea grew and grew and a few days after sharing my idea with other practitioners, we had hundreds of people wanting to join.” A similar call for volunteers in Britain has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people coming forward for the NHS.

Donate to the City Missions, or other charities working with the vulnerable

A major flow-on effect of the shuttering of public spaces is that it means many homeless people have nowhere to go. Around the country, City Missions and charity organisations working with these people were already under pressure – but now the need is even more pressing. If you’re still making full income, please consider donating the money that you would have otherwise spent at cafes and bars to those in need.

Make a list of everyone in your life who is on their own, and call them regularly

These tools don’t necessarily require an organiser or an app, and staying at home and physical distancing doesn’t mean cutting yourself off from the world. In fact, one of the most useful things you can do to help the isolated and elderly is to give them a call, make sure they’re feeling healthy, and checking in on whether they need anything.

Want to help a lot? Just be kind to people

Finally, if you don’t have money or time to give, you can still help. For people like supermarket workers who are still having to work through this all, there’s no respite. A long distance smile and a kind word can be contagious too.

If you’ve got more suggestions for organisations or ways to help, please email

Keep going!