By Elisa Posner
In the recent months of global health crisis, economic turmoil and social unrest, volunteering for humanitarian organizations has not been easy.
While there are many people who need help, Silver Spring resident Hadassah Raskas noticed that service agencies were so overloaded that they were unable to regularly update their websites to publicize their need for volunteers.
So Raskas, along with friend Elana Sichel from Englewood, N.J., figured out how to quantify the needs of volunteer organizations. They set up a website, coronaconnects.org.
Corona Connects helps people who want to volunteer to find organizations that meet their interests. It is updated every 24 to 48 hours and has connected more than 6,000 volunteers in the two months that it’s been running.
Filters for opportunity type, in-person or remote, time commitment and U.S. state allow users to efficiently find the exact type of organization they’re looking for.
“It’s like online shopping,” said Raskas, 22.
That goes for the organizations, too. They can use Corona Connects to find the volunteers they need.
When Raskas’ senior year at University of Pennsylvania went online in March, she and her friends began looking for ways to fill their newfound free time.
Raskas said they wanted to do something to help people, but they didn’t know where to start. She and Sichel realized they could help by creating an online space where people could find volunteer opportunities.
“So we started with a spreadsheet and a mission of spreading kindness during this tough time,” Raskas said.
Soon, the pair replaced the spreadsheet with the Corona Connects website.
Raskas said that the goal of Corona Connects is to create an efficient and easy-to-use mechanism for finding volunteer opportunities. Raskas said a person could Google volunteer opportunities, but it would take them longer to find what they were looking for.
“Right from the forefront, our idea was always, how do we make volunteering easy?” Raskas said.
The only thing the volunteer has to do is click a few buttons, find something that interests them and sign up to volunteer.
According to data collected by the Corona Connects website, more than 8,000 people have viewed the website since its launch in April. Of those, 6,000 have been matched with volunteering opportunities.
Opportunities include tutoring, food packing, crafts, working with the elderly, community outreach, letter writing, mental health and more.
The website also includes Crisis Text Line, a list of grassroots organizations and Penn Best Buddies, an organization for people with special needs.
One volunteer, Noa Ferziger, is the regional coordinator for the Washington area.
“I started off just reaching out to nonprofits in my area. Now I’m kind of taking a bottom-up approach and looking at how to reach out to more [nonprofits] and really meet their needs,” said Ferziger, from Silver Spring.
Ferziger reached out to the Red Cross in Maryland, Eastern Shore, and other local organizations in Washington and Virginia.
So far, Corona Connects has connected volunteers with nonprofits in 23 states. But Raskas said Corona Connects plans to expand.
“We’re looking to have all 50 states,” she said.
Elisa Posner is WJW intern.