The world is full of everyday inspiring heroes. who have a desire to help others, offer their time, skills and resources in order to meet needs but it is not always easy to bring them together. This has become more apparent than ever with the coronavirus crisis where it has been inspiring to see huge amounts of people going above and beyond to help the most vulnerable in their local communities. Whilst these have been very ad hoc and more localised and informal so far, we seek to coordinate such people and channel these efforts so their impact is amplified and to ensure they deliver support to those who need it the most. In addition to new groups of volunteer efforts that have been set up during this crisis, existing organisations from care homes and homeless shelters to foodbanks, refugee camps and more, will also now need more help from volunteers than ever before with ever greater amounts of pressure being put on them. For many, the virus has exacerbated pre-existing hardship and the issue looks set to extend beyond those who are currently on the streets to those who may find themselves there in the coming weeks with rapidly rising unemployment levels. Furthermore, there are many well meaning people who would like to help in some way but do not know where to begin, or others who would not normally have volunteered to help but now have more time and we are set up to refer them to opportunities to make a difference.

Our world has changed with almost every aspect of how we all live being affected including how we behave, work, move, learn and simply interact with each other. The need for service and a community response to help others has increased more than ever before and we all have an important role to play in order to beat this calamity. At the same time, whilst the ways in which we can engage has been impacted, what has not changed is the power we all have as individuals to create a positive impact on the lives of others, and how our efforts are amplified further when we work together sharing our time, talents, voice and resources to make a difference in our communities and improve the world. With growing pressure and strain being put on public services and governments around the world, we can help bridge the gap and step up to lighten the burden on those most affected. Every action, no matter how small, is significant and those who answer the call, show kindness and courage, are genies who fulfil the needs and wishes of others and act as shining points of light in a period of darkness. There is light and hope in the midst of all of the negatives and there is a need and ways we can all serve together and make an enormous contribution, each doing our own part.

The pandemic might threaten our health and day to day ways of life, but it should not undermine our capacity for love or empathy, which the world needs more of than ever before. We all have something we can give and must act together today to make sure nobody is left behind or forgotten, in order to protect the most vulnerable in society, save lives and make a positive difference to our shared world. Whilst anyone can be at risk of being infected by the virus, it is important to understand that there are large groups of people and demographics who are more vulnerable and need greater support. These include but are not limited to people who are immunocompromised with pre-existing health issues, the elderly, disabled people, people with mental health conditions and those in society who are most isolated. The experience is not the same for everyone and it is key to recognise that the pandemic is not some great leveller but in fact, it exacerbates existing systemic inequalities, injustices and insecurities in society, hitting the most vulnerable groups hardest and disproportionately impacting, infecting and killing the poorest people and those from ethnic minorities. As the pandemic widens divisions and deepens inequality in society, this very inequality worsens its spread and deadliness, acting as a multiplier in a vicious self-reinforcing cycle. The huge ramifications from the pandemic and consequences of the response to it by countries across the world could last for many years to come and the speed and depth of any recovery remain to be seen. With this in mind, those who are healthy and fit can and should take concrete actions and offer invaluable support to those who are less fortunate, making sure no one is left behind to face the crisis alone. So please pay it forward as every effort, even just for a few minutes, will make a significant positive difference.

In addition, medical professionals on the frontline in the face of critical shortages of adequate protective equipment in many countries around the world and they need our help more than ever to make sure they can continue to do their jobs to protect us. Otherwise, they are at the significant risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to the people they interact with. Their lives (and our lives) depend on it. They are taking care of us and we also need to help take care of them. We have seen too many stories globally of key workers being sent to the frontline without the right protection and resources as there is not enough to go around with surging global demand and traditional supply chains unable to keep up, despite the efforts of many institutions and organisations around the world. This situation calls for a more innovative and nimble response to support traditional avenues. We and the organisations we partner with have stepped up and are here to shake up the supply chain, improve logistics and ultimately save lives across the world. It has been heartening to see many private sector businesses adapting their companies to help address the PPE crisis as well as other volunteer organisations and even individuals. More of us than we may realise could be sitting on supplies of equipment that is crucial for our front-line workers right now and every bit of support can be transformative even if not in bulk.  Through a combination of our own and our partner organisations’ worldwide networks of facilitators and suppliers, we have clear access to hundreds of millions of supplies ranging from N95 masks, gloves and protective suits to point of care diagnostics tests and ventilators from across Asia, the Americas and Europe. Together with our partner organisations, we are working together to connect need to supply, to ensure that masks and other PPE alongside life-saving medical devices such as ventilators get to where they are needed most. It is in all of our collective interests to do what we can to help.
An important and simple way in which we can support those making sacrifices for the greater good is to show our enormous appreciation by joining our global movement and submitting our thank you message and/or photo/video and posting it with the hashtag #SPIRITEDTHANKS and uploading it INSERT LINK so we can ensure it is sent to different hospitals, staff, organisations etc. and shared on the wall of appreciation as a lasting tribute. Your messages, which act as emotions as a gift, will help keep up their spirits, show them how many people are thinking of and cheering for them and spur them on to keep going. With your gestures, you can brighten up people’s days and contribute positively to their wellbeing and mental health. These heroes have dedicated themselves to helping keep us all safe by providing vital services and working on the frontline, from doctors, nurses, GPs and Pharmacists in the healthcare system to carers, emergency services workers, supermarket staff, cleaners, volunteers and many more. Nothing will ever be enough to repay them the debt we owe but we hope this token of gratitude will show them how grateful we all are and that we are thinking of them on top of more transient gestures like daily clapping. Today, more than ever, we should cherish those who dedicate themselves to our care, heedless of their own health as they work tirelessly to care for people in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Moving beyond this into the future, in addition to appreciation, we can also advocate for better working conditions and pay for essential workers and champion their rights. This is one of several main causes and areas of improvement we are focussing on with our lobbying efforts. In addition to providing support addressing the most pressing immediate needs in this crisis, we also seek to advocate for longer-term structural improvements that strengthen resilience both to future shocks and the other challenges we face, and that lead to important, enduring societal changes which tackle key inequalities and ruptures that the crisis has so clearly exposed. The three main categories we are focussing on are:

1. Strengthening healthcare systems and pandemic preparedness, coupled with public health reforms around mental health and better working conditions and pay for essential workers.
2. Harnessing the current momentum to encourage a global youth-led movement towards greater volunteering participation and community engagement efforts as well as actively supporting and including young people in the rebuilding of our societies
3. Addressing the major inequalities that are being exacerbated both by the pandemic and the response to it, with the goal of rebuilding a better, more inclusive and healthier planet for everyone and the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Historically, global crises have given people the chance to re-evaluate their world, break from the past and imagine a different future. Given just how clearly Covid-19 has highlighted the fragilities and inequalities of systems of all kinds globally, from healthcare, finance and supply chains to education, energy and agriculture, it would be an enormous shame if nothing changed for the better once this pandemic has subsided and if this rare opportunity to reset certain aspects of economies, societies and our planet was wasted. This crisis, which has caused such major health, social, economic, political and environmental disruptions, should act as a loud wake-up and stay awake call about our interdependence, the serious infectious threats we face which exploit global vulnerabilities resulting from systemic inequalities, and about how usually we panic about but do not adequately prepare for such threats. We have had close calls with previous outbreaks and this time we must heed the lessons and cannot ignore the warning signs at our own peril again. Leaders across the world have adopted the language of ‘war’ when referring to the pandemic and invisible enemy we face and this is the most severe crisis on a global scale since World War Two, out of which a new order was born with institutions like the United Nations. Wars typically lead to reconstruction and many consider this to be a turning point for our world as we stand at a crossroads presented with a choice between short term patchwork fixes with a desire to return to ‘business as usual’ or looking forward and working towards building a new social contract where we change the nature, directions and priorities of our lifestyles, mindsets and business models in order to ensure greater social justice and that nobody is left behind.  
We all have a role to play as individuals and organisations and building new systems that are fit for purpose for the 21st century and Fourth Industrial Revolution that has been accelerated by the crisis requires a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder and intergenerational mobilisation effort that takes into account all voices. We face a make or break moment and it is our sincere hope that in spite of the devastation, it can act as a catalyst towards reform agendas which put sustainable development, humanity and our planet at the heart of global value creation to achieve a symbiosis between planet, people and profit, the so-called magic triple bottom line. Such rebalancing must occur in solidarity with those most vulnerable and developing nations and must combat divisiveness and systemic discrimination which has caused immense suffering and been a lived reality for so many people. Societal introspection and talking about unconscious biases, disparities across the board, particularly with regards to racial equality and opportunity, can be uncomfortable but it is necessary in order for growth and systems-level change to happen. The pandemic’s deep and lasting ramifications have impacted our entire world in different forms but we have the unique chance to shape its legacy so that it is not just one of tragedy and loss. This kind of ambition will require unprecedented levels of collaboration but some of the silver linings we have seen from this crisis are that we are able to make rapid and radical changes to usual practices when we need to and are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good, to volunteer support others and to show kindness and cohesion. Recent protests and the huge growth in support for social justice movements have shown the paradigm shift in the public consciousness. We must harness this momentum as we look to collectively heal and recognise that all human beings deserve dignity, respect and care. Progress and policies that previously seemed like a pipedream are gaining support and we must turn will to action to live up to humanity’s highest ideals and develop a better, more inclusive, more sustainable, fairer, healthier, peaceful and prosperous future for all. To learn more and support our mission please visit Advocacy.

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