Service Switch-Ups

Organizations adapt to coronavirus’ impact on volunteer work


Monica Bearden

Seniors Aubrey Desantis (left), Emma Osborne (center), and Clare Bearden (right) volunteering for NHS. They worked food distribution tables for the Houston Food Bank and wore masks as a coronavirus precaution.

Volunteering serves as a cornerstone within a variety of student organizations ranging from honor societies to tutoring groups. In the wake of coronavirus, restrictions on in-person events have been created to ensure safety among volunteers. Now, clubs face unique challenges concerning service and are implementing new strategies to combat these changes.

“I don’t necessarily think that the COVID situation has reduced the number of volunteer opportunities, but it has forced us to be more inventive in finding and creating volunteer opportunities for members,” senior Rommel Caballero Juarez, Vice President of the Klein Oak National Honor Society (NHS) branch said.

Despite restrictions, one organization that NHS has used for service is the Houston Food Bank. Members wearing masks for safety volunteer at food distribution where they load boxes into vehicles who come to the drive-through line. However, this recurring event isn’t without its own unique challenges.

“In a normal situation, the only problem would be the Texas heat, but the task was harder due to the threat of COVID-19,” senior Angelique Mendez said. “It was almost a hundred degrees outside. Thankfully, water and other drinks were provided for us, but there were many instances where working with a mask became hard due to difficulty breathing.”

Although some nonprofits need extra aid due to the economic and health effects of the virus, NHS struggled to find enough of those to provide the required hours for students. For example, many places such as the Montgomery County Animal Shelter halted the acceptance of new volunteers because of coronavirus risks. In response to these impacts, the NHS officer team took to brainstorming for a solution.

“More so than “finding” projects, NHS has had to create projects,” Caballero Juarez said. “Sometimes these projects align with the goals of non-profit organizations, such as Project Vote Oak. Other times, they reflect the community and global affairs that we feel a responsibility to be a part of such as the Back to School Video for our staff at Klein Oak.”

For students with objections to in-person volunteer work as a result of the virus, NHS has found ways to adapt to that too.

“We want to keep all of our members and their families safe and will never require members to participate in anything that violates their need for space,” Caballero Juarez said. “In this process, we have found out about a ton of ways that members can serve from the comfort of their homes.”

Another club, Promoting Education Across the Country (PEAC), which previously focused on tutoring middle schoolers at Hildebrandt, faced a similar switch to online service because of the outbreak.

“We had to find new ways to tutor because of restrictions at schools,” junior Sanjana Bhagavatula, Co-president of PEAC said. “We’re still working with teachers on how we can tutor kids online through Zoom calls. It’s hard because we have to communicate with them entirely over email to work things out.”

Despite the new changes to volunteer work, student organizations remain positive that they can still find ways to make an impact on whether their members are in person or at-home.

“By keeping our members safe and active, we undertake a “no excuses” mindset in that we will overcome the challenges that we face as a club,” Caballero Juarez said.