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Checking in to stay connected during COVID-19

Please visit our COVID-19 resource page for the most current information about Red Cross programs, support, and tips. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in Canada and it’s requiring organizations, including the Canadian Red Cross, to adapt in response.

During a typical disaster, Red Cross volunteers would check on how someone is coping through a face-to-face visit, however, in keeping with COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, teams are currently doing daily check-ins by phone.

In Saskatchewan, volunteers have already made more than 200 wellness check phone calls to people with vulnerabilities being supported in self-isolation by the Red Cross at the request of the Government of Saskatchewan.

This specialized team of safety and wellbeing volunteers has been trained to actively listen and recognize the small details that reveal how someone is really doing.

“Talking to someone, virtually, certainly makes it feel more difficult to connect and read body language,” said volunteer Amanda McConnell, “but I believe it also allows some people to open up more because there is a sense of anonymity. Sometimes it’s easier to speak to someone when you aren’t face-to-face.” 

Saskatchewan volunteer Amanda McConnell in her home office where she makes her wellness check calls.
Saskatchewan volunteer Amanda McConnell in her home office where she makes her wellness check calls.


Phone calls start with the volunteer identifying themselves and asking the person if they would like to talk. If they agree, the volunteer then simply asks how they’re doing and if they need anything. If, for example, someone is running low on medication or needs personal supplies, the volunteer can connect them with the appropriate resources to ensure those needs are met. Every call also includes encouragement from the volunteer for the person to self-monitor their health as directed by the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Volunteers aren’t just checking in on physical needs, they are also checking to see how people are coping with the additional stress that can arise from being in self-isolation. Many are already experiencing other stressors such as pregnancy, health issues, domestic violence, or homelessness, and while they’re doing their best to cope, self-isolation can be an additional challenge. Red Cross volunteers can then make referrals to the appropriate supports if needed.

Wellness checks are an important way of ensuring that everyone has a safe and supportive environment during any response, but volunteers are finding that during COVID-19 these checks are even more critical as those affected aren’t surrounded by their usual support networks. As one client told Amanda, “It just feels good to talk to someone.”
 
Safety and wellbeing volunteers are critical to the success of all Canadian Red Cross emergency responses. If you are interested in joining this volunteer team and helping vulnerable people affected by disasters you can find out more and apply online at redcross.ca/volunteer.

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