Since the outbreak of the pandemic, many people have found ways, despite
their isolation, to help others – to express solidarity and mutual support.
Spontaneous actions, born from the free impulse and will of men and women
scattered all over the world, have brought relief and comfort to so many. Solidarity
has been the positive result of the pandemic – inspiring gestures and
actions of various kinds
on all levels.
Solidarity during Covid times
At the beginning of the pandemic, solidarity was shown through
proclamations of closeness, togetherness. We all went out on our balconies
to applaud and sing, children drew rainbows and made videos showing how
Covid-19 had changed their daily lives. These trends swept across around
the world, testifying to the resilience, creativity, and adaptability of
the global society that had to cope with the novel virus.
What happened in the UK is emblematic: a government appeal to recruit
volunteers for the National Health Service saw more than half a million
people step up – double the assumed target. A wave of solidarity has spread
across Europe, and in France, the Tous Bénévoles platform has seen
its membership double in 2020, with 40,000 new volunteers. According to
Ipsos MRBI statistics commissioned by Volunteer Ireland, the first
few months of the virus’ spread saw three-quarters of the population
volunteering their time.
Tales of acts of kindness soon replaced stories about people emptying
supermarket shelves. And so we found ourselves reaching historic peaks in
donations, the likes of which had not been seen for some time. The amount
of aid offered by the voluntary sector, by associations, and volunteer and
assistance organizations has increased considerably, but at the same time,
unfortunately, people’s needs have also grown considerably. The movements
in solidarity, which emerged during this health crisis, have certainly
involved everyone: private citizens, companies, foundations, non-profit
organizations, etc. The first set of data belonging to a study done by Italia non profit – which is still in progress –
indicates that the methods of support have been different. Many have
offered cash donations (48%, 386 out of 801 total initiatives considered).
It is interesting to note that donations of goods and services have
increased over time as well and are equal to 38%.
Often, parishes were the first to lend a helping hand, being one of the
first points of reference for those who, from one day to the next, found
themselves jobless. In Italy, for example, Caritas has registered a 34%
increase in the number of “new poor” since the beginning of the pandemic.
These individuals have turned to these hubs for food and support in paying
bills, mortgages, and medical expenses. According to Caritas, 92,000
families have received diocesan funds.
Solidarity through the web
In most cases, solidarity has spread via the web. On various social media
platforms, we have read about hundreds of initiatives for fundraising,
making requests, and offering help to those who were most in need. This has
happened in basically every part of the world.
This has been such a social phenomenon, on which several studies have
focused. In Denmark, for example, the study
On solidarity and volunteering during the COVID-19 crisis in Denmark:
the impact of social networks and social media groups on the
distribution of support
, published in September 2020, explains how ‘informal’ civil society, i.e.
those not linked to governmental associations quickly managed to mobilize
support from individuals. The study focuses specifically on the role of
social networks and social media groups and reveals that the vast majority
of this support was distributed through existing social networks. The
research finds that social media groups played an important role in
mobilization, and that support organized on social media is not so
different in commitment or type from support organized in other contexts.
Solidarity and the pandemic: a new sign of hope for the future
Perhaps the very impossibility to be together, to socialize, which is a
basic human need, has led people to a response of solidarity and generosity
as never before. Whoever was able donated their time, money, or goods, and
it has been a way of showing affection, closeness, and support. And often,
these gestures are not only lovely philanthropic intentions, but also
rather signs of grace – of true Christian charity.
It’s as if this incredibly difficult time has made us rediscover our
humanity. At first glance, this period seems rather gloomy, and the media
has made it seem even worse at times. But, if we have a closer look, the
reality is that we have supported each other through this crisis. We have
helped each other. This has never been more evident than in this moment:
people have shown that they have the resources to be optimistic and
altruistic, and to be able to handle even the most difficult challenges.
During a crisis, solidarity is the basis of resistance and resilience of
any society, but the pandemic has really made us understand how much
charity and hope, displayed often through simple gestures of solidarity –
of humanity – there truly is in the world.