Caregiving for Elderly during the COVID-19 Crisis The #YouthOfUNESCO Story of Olga
The rapid emergence of the COVID-19 virus has left many people feeling vulnerable, lonely and disconnected during these uncertain times. These sentiments are often shared among older people, who due to the crisis, are in need of additional support and assistance.
When the pandemic broke out, Olga Verbitskaya (34), a young manager of international projects at the “Minks Regional Clinical Hospital” in Belarus, decided to join the Belarus Red Cross as a volunteer. She wanted to provide older people and people with disabilities within her community with necessary support by distributing food packages and disseminating informative brochures to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
“In April 2020, I read in the Braslavskaya Zvezda regional newspaper that the Braslavskaya regional Belarus Red Cross branch had created a COVID-19 volunteer squad in order to assist the regional social services in delivering food, medical prescriptions and drugs for lonely senior citizens. Having conversations with my grandmother, I have realized how important any help, communication and support is to older people. When I found out that in my region there were more than 500 single citizens who were over 60 and lonely, I decided not to isolate myself from what was happening and that’s how I started to get involved in volunteer activities.”
Olga’s engagement was diversified and included interviews, questionnaires, briefings and, above all, field work. “In particular, I help unload the goods that come to the district for distribution to medical institutions, social organizations and citizens. I then personally deliver food supplies to lonely people and people with disabilities, talk to them and share with them the Red Cross “Simple Tips for Elderly People” flyer. I understand that my contribution to the common cause of the fight against coronavirus is very modest, but what matters is to start making a difference at my level.”
Within her volunteer programme, Olga also contributed to some field work in the agricultural town of Druya, located on the banks of the Western Dvina. “It was the first time that I visited this agro-town located in the north-western outskirts of Belarus, close to the border with Latvia. While I was there, I stood on the picturesque bank of the Western Dvina, looked across the river to the other bank and acutely felt the scale of the world tragedy… there, while we were surrounded by this invisible disaster, I could see that on the other side, people feel the same way and we are in this together.”
“This volunteer experience is a new interesting page in my life and it inspired me for my future professional activity. I intend to organize and implement projects with the aim of assisting precisely the elderly people who are being treated in the neurological department of the hospital I am working in, as well as undergoing further rehabilitation.”
Olga believes that volunteering is one of the most inspiring things in which one can be involved, especially in times of crisis. Volunteering prioritizes the well-being of others, which ultimately impacts communities and improves societies.