Volunteers with PPE as they prepare for community members to seek services at pop-up locations.
With the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic, many find themselves unable to gain access to immediate testing and informational services. Couple social isolation with lack of proper health coverage or displacement from a medical facility leaves many communities disconnected. The need for greater medical integration led Shared Harvest Fund, a technological non-profit organization based in Los Angeles, to develop a free telehealth app and online portal called myCovidMD and myCovid19.live. Through these platforms, individuals are connected to professionals who offer medical assessments, crisis buddy, and a virtual appointment scheduling all within 15 minutes. These professionals, known as Community Health Partners (CHPs), also organize drive-through testing at pop-up community locations to further alleviate mental burdens that can arise during this time. CHPs are part of a volunteer task force specialized in medical and non-medical fields. While community members, including those that comprise the homeless population, benefit from immediate access to these services, CHPs and other volunteers are also able to acquire credits to relieve their student loans by as much as $5,000 or accumulate credits towards an Emergency Savings Account for as much as $2,500.
With such a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shared Harvest Fund gathered the necessary resources to equip CHPs and volunteers to serve the community while adhering to social isolation protocol. Webinars and online training sessions are conducted for the online and app component while an on-site training is administered for the pop-community events, while practicing social distancing and utilizing PPE (personal protective equipment). There is also a designated team solely for the purpose of conducting home visits, who are pre-screened and also using PPE to ensure their safety along with the safety of the families they are serving. This quick mobilization has allowed for immediate service to those communities who are difficult to reach during this time. With social media platforms and the dissemination of newsletters, volunteers and partnered members are able to provide services to those in need. MyCOVIDMD also has waiting lists on their EventBrite website so whenever a new event occurs in a certain area, individuals on the waitlist are notified to attend and receive the necessary intervention and guidance.
While volunteers are able to fulfill the needs of some of the communities they serve, the organization itself is facing unexpected challenges during this time. They are currently being funded by private donors and companies, and despite having applied for grants, they have not received any small business funding or other governmental grants as of yet. On a larger scale, Shared Harvest Fund is experiencing difficulty getting testing to those cities in crisis since those cities require several permits to hold testing. Given that testing prices have drastically inflated for companies and health facilities, the organization’s expenses have increased immensely. Combining that with a lack of immediate funding leaves a small nonprofit organization financially burdened. Further compounded by politics, funding, and gender bias (the organization is founded by a woman named Nana Afoh-Manin), it has been all the more difficult to access undeserved communities and supply them with testing and tele-health. A silver lining during a period of tribulation can be seen when working with Culver City, California, whose mayor is Meghan Sahli-Wells, the fifth female to serve the city, and the first to serve for two terms. She is an exemplary leader, doing the groundwork and volunteering her time during her city’s crisis. She and her family supported staff at Shared Harvest Fund by building their testing center from scratch. The police chief and fire department of Culver City have also been extremely responsive and extending themselves by helping the team.
During this time the media has shined a light on many communities that are in dire need, yet stories such as this are refreshing and really portray the humanitarian relief efforts during these times. If you are interested in remote online volunteer opportunities pertaining to the COVID-19 response, check out covidmd.org and click on "volunteer”. Also, there are active fundraising campaigns via covidmd.org and GoFundMe. Their work is continuous as they collaborate with several other nonprofit organizations to connect their volunteers to causes that ameliorate issues within a community. If you decide to sign up with Shared Harvest Fund, note that every volunteer’s time and efforts will be compensated as ‘points’ that will be converted into funds to be directed toward their bank account or to provide college debt relief. Shared Harvest Fund also hosts an event to celebrate Juneteenth, an American holiday that honors the abolition of slavery in the few remaining states in 1865. They are also looking to host their annual Sounds of Goodness Music Concert Series, a local music event where various artists, musicians, and poets come together to orchestrate a live concert and promote communal well-being. Stay connected to see how this organization continues to give back to communities and what you can do to provide your support!