Mapping COVID volunteers’ experience and insights

Volunteers and their stories during every emergency inspire us. Connecting a global RCRC volunteer and humanitarian network across the covid-19 response was a core goal of Solferino Academy. We are piloting a map to help you explore volunteer stories from the past months.

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COVID-19 has changed our world in many ways. At the earliest stages of the crisis, it was clear that volunteers in the Red Cross Red Crescent network were themselves heavily affected, even as they assisted vulnerable people in their communities. Work life balances shifted. Families, teams, and communities were separated from one another. Marginalized communities became even more isolated. Community services had to be reinterpreted or reinvented to work remotely or through social distancing. Many aspects of fighting COVID were also unknown.

The COVID Volunteers Stories, facilitated by the IFRC’s Solferino Academy through a series of digital events and online sharing, have provided a venue for volunteers to come together and share. More than a thousand volunteers have joined virtual forums to share their stories and insights.

In their stories many volunteers speak to the challenges that COVID has brought as well as the expectation and need for new types of humanitarian services.

1. The initial idea

Volunteers at the British Red Cross and the University of Northumbria started to analyse the patterns in the shared stories. They identified three streams of sentiments:

Individual Community Global
  • Everyday heroism and volunteers’ sacrifices

  • Volunteers’ fragility, needs and vulnerabilities

  • Volunteering as a coping mechanism
  • Crisis as an opportunity

  • Existing and increased risks
  • Reinforced belonging and common purpose Increased responsibility

2. Taking the analysis further

Volunteers at the StandBy Task Force then helped to extend this analysis to more of the stories and to also categorize the stories by reference to key services that volunteers have been providing:

  • Working with vulnerable populations/homeless/disabled/elderly

  • Food assistance and delivery

  • Psycho-social support/mental health

  • Information/education/communication/raising awareness

  • Hygiene/PPE/sanitation /medication delivery
  • Health/medical screening/ambulance services

  • Working with youth

  • Fundraising

  • Blood donations

3. Building out the map

Working with colleagues at Mapbox and other experts including Rob Baker, the IFRC then constructed a virtual map to bring these stories together. 

We first tried a ‘scrollytelling’ style map, which was easy to set-up, compelling, and engaged the user in an interactive tour. Since we wanted to include a large number of stories and dynamic filtering, we eventually adapted a clustering example. 

The finished map includes more that 200 stories from 44 different countries.

Using the map: You can access the stories by clicking on the circles on the map. Zoom in to see stories by country or community. You can also use the filtering options on the right to filter by either category or sentiment. You can also use the translate option in the top right to translate all of the stories into your selected languages.

Thanks to the British Red Cross, the University of Northumbria, the StandBy Task Force, Mapbox and Rob Baker for their inspiration and support in this activity.


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