Medical students form army of 'caremongers' during coronavirus crisis
'Spreading kindness and humanity in a time where there's a lot of uncertainty'
These are scary times for many Canadians, but medical students from coast to coast are hoping to make a difference with a little bit of what they've dubbed "caremongering."
The 8,000-member Canadian Federation of Medical Students — which includes students at the University of Alberta — has been doing everything from babysitting children of health-care workers to manning the phones at 811 call centres, said association president Victor Do.
"Most people refer to it as spreading care but for us … we come back to our professional responsibility," Do said about the "caremongering" expression during a Tuesday interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"For us, it really means kind of spreading kindness and humanity in a time where there's a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear and worry and we just thought, 'How can we just help each other and try to get through that?'"
The students initially started with household work — such as grocery shopping and childcare — to support health-care workers who suddenly found themselves working long hours and, as school districts cancelled classes, with children at home.
The students then reached out to community organizations associated with the medical schools to see where else the army of caremongerers could make a difference, Do said.
Social media and online platforms like Google documents or forms have been invaluable in linking students where they are needed.
"And then using really word of mouth," he said. "Those who may have family in some of these facilities who need additional help and say 'Hey, these are some additional young people who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get going.'"
Students have been advised that their efforts need to stay within the rules of social distancing, especially given any contact with senior citizens or people with pre-existing conditions that have left them vulnerable.
Do said he hopes the caremongering will last long after the pandemic has abated.
"Whenever we're able to return to some sense of normalcy, that this notion of caremongering and the sense of spirit and support just always continues," he said.
"Because that's what will help us get through these situations in the future, but also just being nice to each other and helping each other is what keeps us going."