“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.” – Unknown
How has life changed in your community this year? Do you greet your neighbor with a mask on? Is there more concern about affording basic necessities?
Life here in Boston and across the globe has changed drastically since March, when Covid-19 caused shutdowns across the United States. Here at Boston Cares, things changed quickly as many long-standing projects had to cancel in-person volunteering. At the same time, the need for resources and support in communities around Boston soared. In April, some Massachusetts food pantries saw “demand surge by as much as 800 percent,” the Boston Globe [i] reported. We needed to quickly pivot our programming to focus on the highest needs in our community and find new ways to engage volunteers safely.
Boston Cares began forging new partnerships with organizations in need. As our relationship with Boston Public Schools and the Greater Boston Food Bank expanded, we became connected to new food pantries such as the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassion Center (GBNCC) and My Brother’s Table, in order to support hunger relief efforts in our area. Volunteers are essential for our partners to be able to support our community; without them, getting food from a donation truck to the hands of someone in need would not be possible.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding projects, our volunteers took these changes in stride, adapting to new projects and safety protocols. With new volunteer opportunities added to the calendar and the increased needs of the community, our volunteers have remained a rock-solid base for serving the Greater Boston area.
Let’s take a closer look at the work our volunteers have been doing.
Seifeldin Kudi joined Boston Cares in 2018, after moving to the United States from Sudan the previous year. Growing up in Sudan, Seifeldin saw many people in need due to war in the region. So, when he came to the United States, he was determined have an impact on his community.
Seifeldin quickly became an integral member of the Boston Cares team, serving over 400 hours! He remembers waking up early and using the MBTA to get to projects. “It was so early that I was the only person on the bus, other than the driver!”
In March, Seifeldin’s volunteering experiences changed rapidly. He began serving through virtual projects as well as in person. He has helped with the Boston Tax Help Coalition Stimulus Hotline, a new initiative that supports our community by answering question about stimulus checks, to ensure that low-income families get access to their checks. He also began Distributing Food for Boston Public School Students, which aimed to ensure that BPS families could get free meals during the pandemic. Seifeldin described the safety protocols in place, stating that these regulations have been implemented clearly, through efforts such as working in small groups, wearing masks and taking the temperature of those entering the building.
Anytime Seifeldin can volunteer, he is happy to do so, as it is supporting someone in need. Like all of us, he hopes the pandemic is over soon, but for now he is dedicated to supporting his community when it needs him most. Seifeldin sees the positivity in a hard time; he is grateful that volunteering has allowed him to get to know the city better. “There are many beautiful places in Boston,” he says. Thank you for serving, Seifeldin.
Gherardo Maria Astaldi
Gherardo joined Boston Cares in January of this year, just before Covid-19 struck the U.S. About two months after becoming a member, everything changed. Gherardo did not falter; he quickly began participating in virtual volunteering opportunities through letter writing and video creation. The letters and videos are sent to Boston Cares’ non-profit partners, to encourage all our community members who are and have been working so hard. In his letters and videos, Gherardo tailors his writing towards the needs of each organization. He is both specific and general in his letters and videos, as we are all experiencing the pandemic together, but individual needs vary during this trying time. Volunteering in ways like this is especially important during the pandemic, says Gherardo, as it “creates morale.” The challenges facing our community are very complex; as Gherardo explains it, no one knew exactly how to handle something like this. However, supporting each other in our community is a great start.
Gherardo’s inspiration in serving comes from growing up and his education. A recent law school graduate, Gherardo has a passion for supporting underserved populations. He had focused on human rights during his studies, which developed his interest in service. Upon graduation, he began looking for volunteering opportunities, and that is how he came across Boston Cares. Since he is from Italy, Gherardo says, he is familiar with crises. Many Syrian refugees have come to Italy in search of asylum. “It is a difficult situation to handle correctly,” Gherardo states, noting the complexity of such issues. Gherardo says volunteering at Boston Cares, particularly during the Covid-19 public health crisis, will help him gain experience with complex issues that he can apply to supporting those in need in Italy.
Thank you Gherardo, for supporting our community with care during this time.
Allan became involved with Boston Cares just as our world was changing. After retiring from the financial services industry in 2019, Allan was looking for ways to stay busy and support his community. He and his wife began looking into short-term foster care; then, COVID-19 hit, slowing the process down. However, Allan was determined to support the greater Boston area. He began reading about the various issues that would arise due to the pandemic; he became concerned about children who depended on school meals to eat. Then, Allan found Boston Cares on the internet. He appreciated how Boston Cares made finding volunteer opportunities simple and quick; so, he joined our thriving community of volunteers.
Allan has volunteered at many different places, including at Boston Public Schools Food Distribution sites and My Brother’s Table in Lynn, where he had a chance to work in the kitchen. Allan was impressed by the quality of the meals served there and now has a greater appreciation for planning and effort that goes into large scale food preparation.
Recently, Allan has been dedicated to serving at the GBNCC and Holy Tabernacle food pantries. Allan supports these pantries in essential ways by loading boxes and crates of food on trucks at the Greater Boston Food Bank and then unloading it at these sites to stock their pantries. These sites always need volunteers and the locations are convenient for him.
Allan recognizes that there are underserved communities in our area, particularly during the pandemic. He is glad to be able to support them with his volunteering. Through his volunteering, Allan has come to know places knew little about, such as the “hidden gems” of Lynn, Mattapan and Dorchester. Allan may have never seen these parts of the Boston area if not for his volunteer work.
Thank you, Allan, for joining Boston Cares when our community needed it most.
Responding to this pandemic is new for everyone, and when we combine our knowledge and skills from many backgrounds, we can come together to better support Greater Boston. Our volunteers have taken their diverse experiences from all over the world and applied these skills to our local community. Through their volunteering, they have explored new neighborhoods and met people from all different walks of life. Our volunteers have remained dynamic, adapting to our new world and serving our community when it was most needed. To all our volunteers who are giving their time amidst this uncertainty, thank you.
Covid-19 is still impacting our community, and Boston needs you more than ever right now. Our community partners rely on the work of volunteers to fulfil their missions every day, whether that is through an encouraging letter or by stocking a food pantry with donations. By volunteering, you are addressing the most critical needs of the Greater Boston area, by spreading kindness, supporting hunger relief, and more. We have a specific need for daytime volunteer as more Bostonians begin returning to work. Interested in volunteering? We are offering a variety of virtual and in-person opportunities. Visit https://www.bostoncares.org/ to learn more.