In March, at the beginning of lockdown, we reported on Kellogg student Frederik Filz von Reiterdank’s newly formed student group, Students Against Corona. Frederik formed the group with his sister, Irina Filz von Reiterdank, who is a Medicine student at the Utrecht University and Chairman of the Supervisory Board for VCMS, one of the largest student surgery societies globally and friend Craig Brown, an International Business student from Loughborough University and Managing Director of Enzo Bespoke Events Ltd.
Their volunteer network began by delivering groceries to over 700 people in the UK and making gift bags for NHS workers. The news spread as they appeared on BBC World News nine days after launching, followed by an article in Forbes. Since then the online platform, connecting a network of student volunteers to people who need assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, has now helped over 100,000 people worldwide.
From local beginnings, the movement has grown explosively, and is now operating out of 24 cities in 14 countries, reaching from Orange County, USA to New Delhi, India. They provide the blueprint, hygiene standards and support network to help students start new volunteering groups in their region.
Their Indian hub has facilitated more than 100,000 meal deliveries; in Pakistan schools have been given classes on the coronavirus and hygiene; in Gambia 350kg of food has been donated to ten local families that lost access to food. In the USA more than 1,300 food packages have been donated, while 65 flower bouquets were sent to mothers at home with their children and handwritten letters sent to retirement homes.
Though StudentsAgainstCorona is global, it is all about the local hubs making a difference to their communities. “While you want to work at scale, it is really important to maintain a community feel within each hub,” said co-founder Frederik Filz von Reiterdank. “We realised it could be a real force for good: an international network giving local volunteers the information and tools they need to reach the people near them who most need help.”
The founders do not intend to stop with the coronavirus pandemic and plan to rebrand towards a platform called StudentsCare. “This crisis has made it clear how much students want – and can – contribute to their society, and many of the people who need help now will also need help after this pandemic,” said co-founder Craig Brown.
Today the group is focusing on aiding people at risk; in the future they hope to continue helping those in need long after the current crisis, and to foster strong relationships between generations.
Meet volunteer Abdoulie Jawneh from Brikama, Gambia
Abdoulie Jawneh is a 32-year-old primary school teacher from the Missira neighbourhood in Brikama, Gambia. He saw the interview with StudentsAgainstCorona on BBC World News, got in touch, and set up the Brikama branch. He has been one of SAC’s most dedicated and motivated hub leaders and has overseen three notable projects since joining SAC a few weeks ago:
- Constructing community hand-washing stations out of empty 20L oil cans to give people access to essential sanitation. Without finance, the best way of helping is by raising awareness and encouraging safe practices
- Distributing over 350kg of food to ten local families impacted by COVID-19. Stay at home orders have disrupted many families’ ability to access essential staples such as rice and sugar, so this effort goes a long way in helping parents bridge the gap until local stores and markets eventually reopen
- Posting 200 flyers raising awareness about COVID-19 in Brikama and WHO-endorsed sanitary practices. Education is the first step in fighting the pandemic