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As the world continues to deal with the implications of the coronavirus and need to prevent its further spread, a group of motivated AUC students have stepped up to offer assistance to those in need around the Indische Buurt and Amsterdam-Oost. After their quick action gained the attention of the Dutch media, digital platform Folia reached out to three of the initiators, Carmen Koppert, Amber Roos and Frederiek Tijssens, to learn more about what the volunteer group is doing and how they’re working in times of social distancing and self-isolation.

A good idea that grew

With all events cancelled at the university, and classes and course work suddenly taking place entirely online, the three students suddenly had a bit more time on their hands. Finding it too depressing to sit inside and just follow the news, the three decided to take (socially responsible) action. Carmen, Amber and Frederiek recognised that there were individuals in the local community that were at a greater risk of becoming extremely sick if exposed to the coronavirus.

Therefore, in order to identify neighbours who may not be able to leave their homes for basic daily tasks such as grocery shopping or walking their dogs, they started distributing letters in mailboxes around Amsterdam Oost about how to get in touch. The group of students then started a Facebook group to match AUC students willing to volunteer their time to neighbours who needed assistance. Initially involving just a small number of volunteers, the group now counts hundreds of students who have signed up to offer their help.  

Building bridges in the community

In the interview, the three recount how they were pleasantly surprised by the number of students offering to help. The requests they’ve received for assistance have ranged from simple tasks such as grocery shopping, babysitting and pet care to more serious requests such as an outlet for those experiencing anxiety and loneliness. Doing what they can, the group tries to match volunteers best-suited for the request or offer advice on where the person may be able to find more professional help or support.

Those involved have admired how such difficult times have also brought out the best in the students. In the interview, the initiative is mentioned as one of the many ways that the supportive community of AUC students has been extended to the local neighbourhood providing companionship, assistance and solidarity.

Overcoming challenges

The three students also acknowledge that their initiative has come with challenges. In a time where people are stressed and anxious, they discuss how they have had to gain the trust of their neighbours to offer their services responsibly.

Through maintaining personal contact, explaining in detail the conditions for offering help and developing creative ways of calming worries related to health and safety (only accepting digital payment after grocery shopping is done, sanitizing all items before delivering them for example), the students have managed to use ingenuity and social responsibility to provide solutions to many of the participants’ concerns.

You can read the full interview with Carmen, Amber and Frederiek via the link below. If you have or are involved with an interesting initiative that has had to adapt in response to the coronavirus, we’d love to hear about it and help you in sharing it! You can get in touch with AUC Communications via info@auc.nl.