We are all being asked to practice social distancing to help “flatten the curve” and prevent the spread of COVID-19. But this is also a time for us to stay connected and care for one another.

Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski have spent decades strengthening community and addressing isolation, and received the Order of Canada for their work at PLAN and Plan Institute. They know how vitally important social connections can be, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Here are five ideas they suggest to help us stay in touch and support each other through these tough times:

Don’t Wait to Be Asked

For a variety of reasons (pride, past hurts, fear of being turned down, loss of confidence, confusion) not everyone will ask for help – even as their situation worsens. Keep the connection alive. Be confident and cheerful. Don’t give up even if the first couple of responses are lukewarm or if you haven’t been thanked.

Make it a Team Effort

A small group or network is the best way to share the things that need to be done, especially if the needs are great. A team effort allows you to take care of your other responsibilities and allows you to spell each other off while ensuring the person who is the focus of your concern is never neglected and is taken care of in a timely way. It helps to sort out who is doing what and when.

The Latest Technology Helps

So does old technology like knocking on the door and speaking from a distance of two metres away, or picking up the phone. WhatsApp, Slack, Nextdoor, FaceTime, private Facebook groups, e-mail and telephone trees are simple ways to stay in touch and keep everyone up to date. You may want to try video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts. Zoom is good for people who lip-read, and the business version includes closed captioning and transcripts.

Little Things Make a Big Difference

There are many simple ways to assist: a phone call every day or so, a Netflix subscription, a bag of cookies, running an errand, paying bills online, bringing in the garbage cans, picking up prescriptions, changing a light bulb, exchanging emergency-contact information, walking the dog or checking someone’s internet connection.

The Majority of People Can and Want to Help

We can’t emphasize this enough. Despite what you may have read or thought, caring is in Canada’s DNA. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. You will actually be doing everyone a favour, including yourself.

Find the full piece by Vickie Cammack and Al Etmanski at The Globe and Mail.