During these uncertain times, it is important to look to our community for stories of people coming together to extend a helping hand. CareMongering-KW: Kitchener-Waterloo Community Response to COVID-19 is a Facebook group doing just that － offering support while navigating the challenges faced in response to COVID-19.
While fearmongering is a deliberate act to create and spread public fear of a specific issue, ‘caremongering’ seeks to create and spread care and help others within communities instead.
Amanda Thompson first heard of the CareMongering-TO Facebook group and was inspired to start her own group here in KW with friends. She, along with her partner Healy Thompson, launched the Facebook group on Mar. 13, 2020.
CareMongering-KW’s primary goals are to maintain a focus on compassionate community care and to support people who are impacted by COVID-19, by work and other closures and by social distancing/isolation.
They were surprised how quickly CareMongering-KW grew in size. Expecting the group to be 500 to 1000 members, they are now at 7751 as of Mar. 31 with spikes in members joining with each big news announcement.
“As the group grew much larger and much more quickly than we expected it would, we realized we needed additional support for moderators and wanted to bring in a more diverse portfolio of voices into the mix,” Healy Thompson said.
To manage the large number of posts per day, Healy and Amanda Thompson and friends recruited moderators from the existing group members, including Saudia Rahamat who we also spoke to, who were interested in stepping up and being more active.
“We have tried to remove discussion posts debating various issues related to COVID-19 from the group as much as possible,” Thompson said.
At first, there were issues with group members posting inaccurate information. Thompson stressed that posts need to include a source and, especially for medical information, there needs to be a public health or WHO source.
“People were sharing news on the group saying ‘call this number and a doctor will come to your house’ and it wasn’t even an Ontario number, thus making it harder to find accurate information at best and at worst it was actually harming people － so please stop sharing inaccurate information,” Thompson said.
To avoid spreading misinformation, fear and anxiety, the moderators now approve each individual post to help keep things on topic or to remind people that the group is not the right place for that kind of discussion.
“Most people who find the group are there because they have needs and want the community’s help or they have things they can offer and they want to support the community. Some might need help locating supplies and the next day someone is offering a resource for something like how to meditate at home,” Thompson said.
CareMongering-KW asks members to use hashtags to help people find what they need quickly and easily:
#RESOURCE for online or community resources that might be useful like online counselling, virtual exercise options, food bank updates etc.
#COMMUNITYCARE for ways to take care of community members like leaving mailboxes open for postal workers etc.
#KIDS for resources to keep kids entertained and engaged while at home.
#ISOs or #OFFERS if you need or have found a supply of things like gloves, toilet paper, masks, etc. or need or can offer to help with grocery or pharmacy runs.
#NEWS for Waterloo region-specific news and updates from the Government of Ontario or Canada that impact local residents.
#RESOURCE or #SHOPS for KW stores and restaurants with updates on their services.
Now that people must maintain social distance between each other to help stop the spread of COVID-19, such distancing could easily cause people to view each other as potential threats. This is what CareMongering-KW wants to combat － to instead look at your fellow community members as resources.
“Speaking for myself and our several thousand members it’s easy to worry and feel anxious when so much feels like it’s out of our control. Being able to do something concrete for someone, having some way that you can contribute to your community makes you feel like you are not helpless, and I think a lot of folks have sought us out for that reason,” Thompson said.
Mister Rogers once said that in challenging times, we can find comfort in looking for the helpers. You don’t have to look too hard for the helpers in our community. During this crisis, we can follow Rogers’ example and cultivate our connections with other people.
“We forget the part we play in our community. Every voice and every action has value because everything we do has a ripple effect to the people around us and continuously that ripple effect will eventually have a further reach than we ever expected,” Rahamat said.
CareMongering-KW is filled with stories of people lifting each other up in the group. The group is filled with posts of people helping each other out and caring for one another.
Stories of friendly local dumpster divers who offered to deliver care packages of fruits and vegetables they found to those in need of food. A mother with a very high-risk three-year-old son with chronic lung disease and asthma who put out a call for masks and was overwhelmed with the response from the community looking to help. Someone living with alcoholism looking for online AA support who was greeted with people looking to connect virtually and share stories.
These stories are what people need right now.
“I want our community to remember that at the end of the day we are all in this together and we will get through it. By doing our part it’s just one huge step towards getting this over with and getting back to a somewhat normal routine again,” Rahamat said.