5 ways to help the world's most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic

A homeless man is seen while he waiting to receive food delivered by volunteers, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Santiago, Chile April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Vera     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC27BG9K4P9H

Social innovators around the globe are responding to COVID-19. Here's how you can help them. Image: REUTERS/Carlos Vera

Pavitra Raja
Programme and Engagement Lead, Europe and Americas - Schwab Foundation, World Economic Forum
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  • The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship is helping social innovators respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Social entrepreneurs are providing food, water, shelter and mental health care to vulnerable populations.
  • There are five easy ways you can help people in need right now.

Every day we engage with the some of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and innovators through the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship community.

The community includes approximately 400 social entrepreneurs and innovators, operating in 190 countries, who have impacted the lives of 622 million people and counting by distributing loans and services, mitigating CO2, improving access to education and energy and driving social inclusion for people with disabilities, the homeless and refugees.

And now, in the COVID-19 pandemic, this community is responding in incredible ways, specifically to the needs of those who governments or the market are unable to account for: the excluded, marginalised and vulnerable populations.

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However, the work has been seriously hindered due to the lack of adequate technical support, financial resources and access to partnerships during the crisis.

When we share the unique challenges these social innovators face, the most common question in response is, How can I help them?

Here are five ways to help the World Economic Forum social innovator community, right now – and in turn, help the world’s most vulnerable get through the pandemic.

1. Feed the hungry.

Human Nature is a for-profit business with three social goals: strengthening the Filipino economy, creating a new middle class from the poor and caring for the environment.

Human Nature has produced a truly Filipino brand by formulating and marketing personal and homecare products made with local and natural raw materials and free from harmful chemicals. To support farmers, the company works with community cooperatives and provides training, equipment and a market for high-value crops such as citronella, lemongrass, virgin coconut oil and coco nectar.

Goodness Rising is the company’s collective effort to feed the hungry in the Philippines. For less than $7, you can provide food packages to feed a family of five or six.

2. Improve access to water.

Water For People is a global non-profit working in nine countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia to develop sustainable water and sanitation services. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for easy access to water and sanitation services more than ever before, and yet more than half of the world does not have access to safe sanitation services.

Access to water for handwashing varies worldwide
Access to soap and water for handwashing is even more important in the COVID-19 pandemic. Image: WHO

You can help provide water and sanitation services to those without them by volunteering virtually to help Water For People with outreach, fundraising and advocacy.

3. Keep children reading and learning.

COVID-19 has created a global education crisis. More than 1.3 billion children and youth have been impacted by school closures. Distance learning is the best chance children and youth have to mitigate learning losses during this pandemic.

Worldreader uses low-cost technology, such as e-readers and mobile phones, to offer more than 42,000 digital books from over 400 publishers in 43 languages – including Kiswahili, Hausa, Afrikaans and English – contributing to local heritage and identity. Donate here.

Worldreader helps people read better
Worldreader uses low-cost technology to provide books to children who need them. Image: Worldreader

However, millions of children in low-income communities may not have the technological resources to access e-books. This where First Book can play a key role. A non-profit social enterprise, First Book uses market forces to address the systemic barriers to quality education for children in need. First Book provides access to new books and resources for kids who need them most, helping fuel a love of reading and learning. Every $3 donated = one new book (including the cost of shipping) to a child in need. Support them here.

4. Watch football to help the homeless.

Homeless World Cup, a social sports organization established specifically to tackle homelessness and poverty through football and street soccer worldwide, has lifted 1.2 million people out of homelessness and established 74 partner organizations around the globe.

During the pandemic, their work has become even more instrumental as homeless people are one of the groups at greatest risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Help Homeless World Cup by donating, fundraising and shopping, and tune in to the virtual Homeless World Cup on 5 July.


5. Text people to ensure their mental health and wellbeing.

Among many global health, economic and societal disruptions, the coronavirus has forced millions to physically isolate. Combine that with extensive news coverage on the pandemic and the unknown future, and it's no surprise anxiety is on the rise.

Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 text hotline for people in crisis. The service is powered by volunteer crisis counsellors who work remotely, anywhere with a computer and secure internet connection. Crisis counsellors answer texts from people in crisis, calming them with active listening, collaborative problem solving and safety planning. Learn more about how to volunteer as a crisis counsellor, and read this expert guide on how to manage mental health and wellbeing.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to champion social innovation?

Social innovators, disruptors in the service of others, are in need of your support more than ever before. For more information or to help our social innovator community, get in touch with the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

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