When the UK’s “lockdown” was announced, I expected to feel many things: anxious, lonely, claustrophobic. But one emotion I wasn’t expecting was guilt.

On a daily basis I find myself feeling guilty for not doing more – I see NHS workers on the frontline, risking their lives to help others. Supermarket workers keeping stores open so that people can get their essentials. Postmen delivering vital letters and not-so-important online shopping parcels, helping people feel connected and some sense of normalcy.

And then there’s me: working from the sofa at home, drinking copious amounts of tea, and binging on Netflix series in the evening.

Firstly, I’m not here to make anyone feel at all bad, especially if that’s what you’re doing too. We are following the UK’s government guidelines by staying home to protect the NHS and save lives – and we’re also keeping our mental wellbeing ticking over by doing the things that bring us happiness and comfort. It’s so important to look after ourselves both physically and mentally, and I keep telling friends and family members that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be spending our time at the moment (so long as you’re properly socially distancing at home, that is…).

But I also do have moments where I just feel so…helpless. Like…surely there must be something I can do?! I’m young, healthy and eager to help. I’m also someone who likes to keep busy and work towards something, so going through a period of time where so much is out of my control is terrifying. A quick glance on Twitter shows me that I’m not completely alone in feeling so helpless, either.

How to help during the coronavirus pandemic

In times of helplessness, I find lists help me feel like I have some semblance of control – so that’s what I’m going to do! I’ve gathered together 10 suggestions for safe ways we can help in some small way during this crisis. No special skills, qualifications or unnecessary trips outside the house required.

I’m not saying that all of us need to do everything on this list. But if, like me, you’re feeling a little helpless during this time, hopefully something on here will spark some inspiration and help you feel a little more connected with the community around you.

It goes without saying that if you do any of the following, you should do so while safely following the Government’s guidelines (the UK’s current guidelines can be found here). As the situation is constantly evolving, I’ll be keeping an eye on things and removing things on this page if necessary, but please do give me a heads up if you think something should be edited/removed. 

10 small ways to help during the coronavirus pandemic

(scroll down the page for more information on each point)

1. Phone up someone vulnerable/elderly/on their own
2. Sign up to help in your local community
3. Like the ‘Bake a Smile Project’ group on Facebook
4. Knit blankets for cats
5. Do some shopping/pick up medication for neighbours
6. Check in on friends online
7. Sign up to be an NHS volunteer responder
8. Donate to charities
9. Support local businesses
10. Stay the heck home

1. Phone up someone vulnerable/elderly/on their own

Ways to help during the coronavirus pandemic

My nan on one of her many (pre-lockdown) latte excursions

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s also one that’s so important. If you’re living with someone – a partner, friends or family – it can be easy to forget that for people living alone isolation can be so incredibly lonely. My nan, for instance, was so reliant on her almost-daily trips up to the local cafe to meet friends over a latte. Now we’re on ‘lockdown’, her whole little world has turned upside down.

If you have someone’s phone number to hand, why not drop them a quick call to see how they are? They might be absolutely fine, but either way I’m pretty sure they’ll be grateful you were thinking of them. Alternatively, if you don’t have their phone number you can always drop a note through their door or post them a letter with your phone number on.

2. Sign up to help in your local community

Ian and I moved into a new flat in a new area just a few days before ‘lockdown’. We know virtually no-one in this area at all, and so know practically nothing about how to help with local volunteering projects.

That’s where Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK comes in. By putting in your postcode you’ll be able to see all the local groups that have been set up to help people. These are mostly Facebook or WhatsApp groups that help keep local residents up to speed on local volunteering initiatives. It’s also a place for local businesses to advertise their services, or for individuals to ask for help.

3. Like the ‘Bake a Smile Project’ group on Facebook

The Bake a Smile Project group caught my eye a while back, and it makes me smile every time I think about it! The initiative matches up volunteer bakers around the country with older people on their birthdays; the bakers will make a cake just for them, and deliver it to their care home/place of residence.

For obvious reasons, the baking has been put on hold for the time-being, but the Facebook group is still going strong with suggestions on how to help out. There have been calls for people to send birthday cards to a woman turning 100 years old (and unable to celebrate with a party!), to people crafting headbands or laundry bags for NHS workers. It’s so heartwarming and wholesome.

4. Knit blankets for cats

Keen knitters who want to help out during their time at home are encouraged to whip up some small knitted blankets for rescue kitties at a North London RSPCA branch. The RSPCA Friern Barnet Adoption Centre is asking for blankets of 30cm x 40cm in size, which have been made out of machine-washable wool.

ways to help during the coronavirus pandemic

I wasn’t about to write this list without including a ginger cat, was I?

When they arrive at the centre, each cat is given their own knitted blanket to cosy up on. When they find their forever home, they take their blanket with them so that they have something with a familiar scent – this helps make their transition between the two locations that little less stressful.

Blankets should be sent to: Pets At Home, Friern Bridge Retail Park, Pegasus Way, Friern Barnet, London N11 3PW.

5. Do some shopping/pick up medication for neighbours

There are a number of ways you can help out here:

  • If you have a relative, friend or neighbour who’s not so online-savvy, you could help organise an online shop for them.
  • Alternatively you could pick up some shopping for someone while you’re doing your own shopping – this helps reduce the number of people out at supermarkets, and also frees up some more online shopping slots for vulnerable people. (Remember if you are picking up shopping for people, you should leave the groceries on the person’s doorstep so that you can keep at least two metres apart at all times)
  • Whether it’s a one-off or a regular prescription someone needs, you can help someone out by collecting their medication for them. This is especially helpful if that person is elderly or vulnerable, as it reduces the amount of time they are out and about.

6. Check in on friends online

Just because someone’s young and uploading Instagram Stories of them happily drinking wine/playing PlayStation/taking part in virtual pub quizzes at home alone, it doesn’t mean they’re feeling OK. Checking in with friends is always encouraged, but especially so at the moment.

7. Sign up to be an NHS volunteer responder in the UK

Back in March, the NHS called for 250,000 volunteers around the UK to help out with simple tasks such as delivering medication from pharmacies, or telephoning people at home to make sure they’re OK.

An incredible 750,000 people signed up within a few days, causing the NHS to place a temporary pause on recruitments while they process the initial sign-ups. However, if you’re still keen to help out it’s worth keeping an eye out on the GoodSAM app website in case applications open again.

8. Donate to charities

Full disclosure: I work for a charity, but it’s no secret that all charities across the UK have experienced financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. A £750 million package of support has been announced by the Government for frontline charities, but the reality is that many charities will face more difficulties in the months to come.

If you are in a financial situation to help out, a one-off donation or a regular direct debit would be an invaluable gift to your preferred charity right now.

9. Support local businesses

Ways to help during the coronavirus pandemicWhile the UK Government has announced plans to help small businesses and the self-employed over the coming months, unfortunately this is unlikely to help everyone. A number of businesses are having to adapt to the current climate by offering everything from delivery services to gift cards. Supporting your local butchers/florist/bakery/cafe/gift shop is a way of supporting someone’s livelihood, and often years of hard graft to get their business to where it is today.

If you’re South East London-based, I thoroughly recommend following the Support SE London Instagram page. It has live takeaway and delivery updates in the stories for local businesses, meaning you can stay up to date with everything that’s available!

10. Stay the heck home

It sounds like the simplest thing ever, but it is in no way to be scoffed at: by staying at home you’re helping to save lives and reduce the impact of coronavirus.

I hope the above helps anyone who feels a sense of hopelessness at the moment. It’s true that things are pretty s%&*tty right now, but it’s important to hold on to the fact that things will get better. 

If you have any more suggestions on ways to help out during the coronavirus pandemic then please leave me a comment below or drop me an email. I’d love to hear what’s helping you.