Students continue to volunteer despite pandemic
Luciana Thomas | Monday, March 8, 2021
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Notre Dame students have found new ways to get involved at the University as well as the local South Bend community.
Junior Ellyn Jarrell has been volunteering with Elara Care Hospice in South Bend through their new pen pal service program, which was implemented in response to the pandemic.
“We always forget that even though we are in a world where personal, face-to-face contact is very limited, there is still a need for people to make the pandemic a little easier on all of us,” Jarrell said in an email.
While the pen-pal system may not allow for as much interaction as in-person visits before the pandemic, Jarrell said she still feels as though she’s been able to be there for patients.
The Robinson Community Learning Center (RCLC) has also continued to serve the community during the pandemic with increased precautions. Emily Sullivan, the volunteer coordinator at the RCLC, said they were forced to cap their enrollment to a much lower number in order to accommodate social distancing rules and ensure the safety of all the program participants.
The RCLC provides tutoring services, as well as other educational programs for the South Bend community. The center was founded in 2001, and programs are overseen by South Bend community members and Notre Dame faculty, staff and students.
When volunteers arrive at the center now, they present their campus green passes, get their temperatures taken and wear masks at all times. The RCLC has been using Zoom to connect students with tutors, which has proved challenging, Sullivan said.
“For a program like ours that is so focused on relationship-building, that has been a huge hurdle,” Sullivan said. “But all of our students and tutors have really risen to the occasion.”
Sophomore Jack Loesch, who tutors at the RCLC, said in an email that the changes have made his role more challenging, as students often get distracted on their devices.
“I am still able to have good conversations with the students during the tutoring sessions, just like I normally would prior to COVID,” Loesch said in an email. “One challenge of connecting with the kids, however, is when the tutoring is done completely remotely because then it is out of your control whether or not the student will walk away from the screen or click on things that are off-task,”
Despite the challenges, Loesch and other volunteers have been adapting.
Sullivan said that despite the pandemic there has been an increase in the number of volunteers wanting to volunteer at the center.
“I am personally very grateful and impressed that there has been such an outpouring of support from local college students who are as enthusiastic as ever to volunteer their time, even under the most difficult circumstances,” Sullivan said.