During the height of the NSW bushfire crisis, Simone Cheung decided she wanted to find a way to offer crisis accommodation to people’s pets, but like so many Australians at the time, Simone wanted to help but she wasn’t sure how.
“I saw lots of people being super generous during the bushfires but not having a platform to offer that generosity to anyone,” she said.
That was the beginning of her online platform Crisis which is now being used to help match people with requests for help during the COVID-19 pandemic to volunteers offering up their skills and time to those who need it.
“Because it’s about people offering and requesting help, the app just pivots to whatever help is needed at the time, the app isn’t constrained to only allowing people to offer fence building or whatever was requested during the bushfires,” Ms Cheung told Nine.com.au.
“Most of the offers and requests we’ve been receiving have been people offering to help in picking up groceries or picking up medication or transporting people to essential services … we’ve had people offering free virtual French lessons for people in isolation or quarantine.”
After receiving a request from Dr Khanh Nguyen, an emergency physician from Western Sydney, the app has resulted in two ‘sewing hubs’ being established with volunteers sewing masks for people working with high-risk individuals but who may not be eligible to receive hospital grade PPE gear reserved for emergency workers.
“If we get a surge in cases, this will quickly overwhelm our resources, including PPE, which simply cannot be made fast enough … This puts their own lives at risk. Ultimately, we are unable to help those in need without appropriate PPE as we may become asymptomatic carriers and infect our patients,” Dr Nguyen said.
Within minutes of the request from Dr Nguyen, the Crisis app automatically matched volunteers who were able to offer sewing assistance and in just one day two virtual “Sewing Bee” hubs in Sydney’s Inner West and western suburbs.
Ms Cheung said having watched Australia endure two consecutive crises, she believes people are realising how easy it can be to lend a helping hand.
“The app allows people to offer whatever their skill set is … It’s pretty much whatever is within your own means and the app is trying to give people a way to help within their own limitations,” she said.
“With COVID and with everyone being effected, people have realised how easy it is to help so it could just be the elderly neighbour next door, or just checking in on someone via phone.”
“My hope for COVID is that not reverting to an old mean but reverting to a new, better normal. I think people realising that they’ve got skills and they’ve got ways to help and its really easy to look after your neighbours or band together as a community.”
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