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Rudimentary to flourishing: COVID-19 and virtual volunteering

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

There was a bit of a surprising silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic for Saskatchewan-based Canadian Red Cross volunteer Alex Bull.

An older woman looking at the screen of a laptop.The move to virtual-based volunteering has taken her from “barely” able to turn on a computer to supervising a team of Safety and Wellbeing volunteers using technology.

“Basically I decided that even though I wasn’t comfortable with computers and since everything was going to be going online for the near future, in some ways this would be an opportune time to learn a few things and one of them was computer skills,” says Alex, a resident of North Battleford and retired medical psychologist.

Restrictions resulting from the pandemic has turned traditional interaction between Red Cross personnel – both staff and volunteers – on its head.

“It was usually face to face with people in the community,” says Cindy Scott, Volunteer Experience and Engagement Manager for the Red Cross in Saskatchewan, of past responses to emergency incidents or disasters in the past. “This is a new way of volunteering. They are now deployed virtually, and we have had to develop new ways to support them during training and while doing their duties.”

One of the ways the Red Cross is supporting its volunteers in what is a steep learning curve for some is through ‘tech buddies.’ Volunteers who need technical support are assigned a ‘buddy,’ also a volunteer, who helps walk them through any issues or problems.

“We just have never used this much technology during a response,” Cindy says.


In Saskatchewan, at the request of the provincial government, the Red Cross is providing support to those most vulnerable who need to self-isolate but do not have the means to do so and to Indigenous communities as they prepare for and respond to COVID-19, and increasing the frequency of contact with isolated seniors in the Friendly Phone program.

As a Safety and Wellbeing responder, Alex connects virtually with those being housed in hotels to self isolate to check on how they are doing, have a chat and see if they need anything. After doing that for a few weeks, she was asked to take on a supervisory role.

“I’m very proud to have this opportunity to work with the Red Cross because it’s imperative to help each other out,” she says. “That’s what it’s about.”

There are a variety of volunteer positions with the Red Cross that provide excellent developmental opportunities. In addition to comprehensive training, the Red Cross offers meaningful volunteer work that helps the most vulnerable.

Learn about the exciting opportunities now available at: www.redcross.ca/volunteer. 
Apply to become a Safety and Wellbeing volunteer. We're seeking people to fill this role across Canada. 


Related: 
Safety protocols mean Red Cross volunteers can help when needed during COVID-19
Red Cross volunteers provide wellness checks amidst pandemic
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