Community Voices Initiative
The Community Voices Initiative aims to minimize social isolation by connecting student volunteers with members across the Boston community for meaningful virtual interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. As social distancing measures were instituted in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic, we grew concerned about the implications of potential loneliness on the health and well-being of our patients. Individuals of all ages and health statuses are at risk of becoming increasingly isolated. We came together to act on our shared vision: to curb growing social isolation by pairing student volunteers with local community members in order to virtually develop meaningful relationships and help make a difference in one another’s lives during these difficult and uncertain times. This project was started by three M2 students at Harvard Medical School, and has expanded to other medical students and undergraduate students as well. Within the first few days of sharing this initiative, over 50 students stepped up to share their time to connect with community members. At the same time, we connected with supportive community liaisons in several organizations across the Boston area who were similarly concerned that their members might either be at an increased risk of social isolation or might otherwise benefit from additional social contact during this pandemic. These community organizations, including independent senior living facilities and community-based healthcare organizations, identified their members who were most at risk of social isolation and who were interested in weekly conversations with students. Now, we continue to forge connections between our enthusiastic volunteers and community contacts through weekly conversations about any non-medical topic of interest (e.g. favorite hobbies/games, life stories, favorite movies/artists, memories of loved ones, technology advice, etc.). To date, we have had about 70 student-community member pairs, most of whom continue to speak with one another over the phone on a regular basis.