SOUTH JERSEY, (August 24, 2020)--When the COVID-19 pandemic heightened in March, a group of Stanford University students based in the Los Angeles area noticed a desperate need for help in the at-risk community. Within a month of starting their cause, lahelpinghands.com had formed over 200 matches, providing grocery and prescription pickups to seniors across the city. Eventually, they partnered with the LA Mayor’s office to enhance this goal.
When Stanford student Kyle D’Souza returned to South Jersey, he partnered with Danica Bajaj, a family friend, to replicate Los Angeles’ success in New Jersey and Philadelphia.
In a few weeks, they had partnered with over 8 organizations to provide delivery and virtual companionship services to at-risk families. Additionally, they debuted a virtual tutoring program for financially struggling communities. In recent months, the group has expanded, gathering more volunteers, people in need, and partnerships. The organization has thus far received two grants, one from PeaceFirst, a project-based non-profit, and a second from the Covid-19 Response Fund, funded by the Stanford Graduate School of Business. With guidance from Stanford University and Michigan State University, the organization now originates a new program of its own design: the allyship program.
The allyship program, led by South Jersey native and Michigan State University Student Joe Miscioscia, arose from a realization that a vast majority of those they came in contact with had pre-existing struggles, often related to economic disempowerment. When their problems were worsened by the development of the pandemic, many did not know where to turn. Thus, Helping Hands built a unique program focused on connecting those in need with the appropriate organizations and government aid initiatives to provide long-term stability in an increasingly unstable society. Volunteer allies receive weekly training based on the teachings of Michigan State University and Stanford University Psychiatry Departments, as well as Stanford’s supporting Bridge Peer Counseling.
Alongside the allyship program’s growing success, Helping Hands’ other initiatives have held strong. The virtual companionship program is now connected with approximately 30 different nursing home attendees, and through partnerships in addition to one-on-one pairings, the tutoring program has helped approximately 40 different students. While, in light of dwindling concerns regarding health and safety, the delivery programs have not been as necessary, they are still fully accessible and available to anyone in need.
Moving forward, Helping Hands hopes to reach over 100 matches and build a dedicated, trained ally program of 30-50. Furthermore, as schools reopen, they want to expand their tutoring
program and create lasting, sustainable partnerships with senior centers. The organization notes that they are “excited to get any local citizen eager to support their community involved. No matter who you are, you have a lot to bring.”
To partner, volunteer with, or receive assistance from NJ/PA Helping Hands, simply navigate their website (njpahelpinghands.com) or contact them directly at email@example.com or at (609) 429-0580. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with a wide range of time commitments and duties.