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How to be a sofa activist: Save the planet with Jane Fonda

by Ashlee Crick (2020-05-22)


When the NHS put out its recent call for volunteer responders, more than half a million people signed up in the first 24 hours.

The administrators even had to close the site while they processed those keen to offer their services.

But what if you've got time, skills, and a desire to do your bit but can't, or would rather not, venture from home? Here are the ways you can make a real difference right now, all from the comfort — and safety — of your own sofa...






Here are the ways you can make a real difference right now, all from the comfort — and safety — of your own sofa


Lend an ear

An estimated 4,000 grassroots neighbourhood initiatives are now operating in response to the pandemic, with volunteers liaising via WhatsApp or Facebook.

They are working to make sure the elderly aren't too lonely, and that shopping and medicines get delivered.

How to get involved: Go to covidmutualaid.org and type in your postcode to find details of your closest neighbourhood group. You can sign up for shifts to take calls to your phone from people who need help nearby, or who want advice, or just a chat to stave off loneliness.

To spread your net further afield, become a 'check in and chat' volunteer for the British Red Cross at goodsamapp.org. Anyone in isolation can opt to be a telephone companion.

Or visit royalvoluntary service.org.uk and search for any telephone companion volunteer opportunities.

Special skills required: A willingness to chat.






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Be a beauty banker

Some people are struggling to afford basic personal care.

Beauty professionals Jo Jones and Sali Hughes set up Beauty Banks to donate essential products to foodbanks, homeless centres, refuges and schools, for instance.

How to get involved: During the pandemic, you can donate to buy soap, hand sanitiser and more for people going without during the crisis at gofundme.com/helpinghands-for-covid19. You can also search for the Beauty Banks wishlist on easho.org.uk to purchase bundles for those in need.

While the organisation is not currently accepting product donations from the public due to safety concerns, there is no better time to find items to donate in the future.

Go to beautybanks.org.uk and download a private bankers' starter kit. Then clear out your bathroom cabinet and encourage everyone in your family to do the same. Everything from shampoo, body wash, toothpaste and toothbrushes to deodorant, disposable razors, sanitary pads, face wash and make-up can be donated, as long as the item hasn't been used.

When you send the team your postcode they will identify a charity in your area to which you can donate directly.

Special skills required: A packed bathroom cabinet.

Join Jane Fonda






The pandemic appears to have temporarily quietened climate change discussion, but actress Jane Fonda is working with Greenpeace to keep awareness levels high


The pandemic appears to have temporarily quietened climate change discussion, but actress Jane Fonda is working with Greenpeace to keep awareness levels high.

The 82-year-old had been leading Fire Drill Friday civil disobedience protests across the U.S. in response to teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg's Fridays For Future school strikes. The name is a reference to Thunberg's environmental alarm call of: 'Our house is on fire!'

Fonda is urging people around the world to join her online for a virtual Fire Drill Friday each week to keep the environmental crisis at the front of our minds.

She posted an exercise video, like those she made in the Eighties, on the social network TikTok, urging fans to register their support.

How to get involved: Visit firedrillfridays.com to find out more. Enter your email address in the 'Join Us' tab to learn about ways to be involved.

You can also follow Fire Drill Fridays on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep updated on 'teach-ins' (rather than the usual sit-ins) and see celebrity appearances every Friday.

Special skills required: Strong feelings about saving the planet.

Share tech skills

Age UK is calling for volunteers to donate their time to one of more than 130 local centres around the country, in a bid to help elderly people stay connected, access vital services and pursue hobbies online.

How to get involved: Fill in the volunteer enquiry form at ageuk.org.uk and watch the eight-minute video to learn how to help older people make the most of technology. Your local Age UK branch will make contact if it needs help.

Or you can work alone, by explaining the benefits of online tools such as Skype, FaceTime or WhatsApp to any elderly people with whom you are in contact. You can also offer to help them search for any items they might need online.

You could teach them how to subscribe to Mail+ so they can read their favourite newspaper on a phone or tablet. They simply have to search for Mail+ in the Apple App Store or Google Play on Android devices, or go to mailplus.co.uk.

Special skills required: An understanding of social media and the internet.

Go global

Even if you don't leave home, modern technology means you can still lend your help to causes around the world.

How to get involved: Head to onlinevolunteering.org/en, a UN-backed organisation which aims to help volunteers from many fields team up to tackle world issues.

Volunteers can pick from up to 300 online tasks at 3,000 organisations by clicking on 'Browse all opportunities'.

Many tasks are Covid-19-related and ask for skills such as writing and proof-reading, art and design, technology development, research, admin and teaching.

Special skills required: This is tailored to your own skills.

Offer your sight

The blind or partially sighted can struggle with simple tasks such as checking expiry dates or reading instructions.

The charity Be My Eyes puts volunteers around the world in touch with those who are in need and potentially isolated at home, to help solve tasks big or small.

How to get involved: Go to bemy eyes.com and download the free app, which lets you offer visual assistance through a video call.

Special skills required: Good eyesight.

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