The economic impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic has been devastating for many people. The team at Learning for Life is here to help.
"People are scared. They can't buy groceries, they're out of work, their rent is due. They're feeling anxious and uncertain," said RIC Assistant Professor of Community Psychology Traci Weinstein.
"One thing that community psychology reminds us to do is to not get so mired in what we don't have that we forget the things that we do have."
Weinstein calls it a "strengths-based approach" and it reminds us to look for resources within our families, friends and communities. RIC students can begin with the Rhode Island College community.
Through the Office of Learning for Life, any student who is facing financial hardships that jeopardizes their ability to continue school can apply for Student Emergency Funds by filling out an online application form.
However, Learning for Life staff will first attempt to connect students to other community resources, including local food pantries and meal sites, emergency housing, technology resources, mental health and wellness resources, free educational online resources for children and physical health supports.
People may not realize that they already have some of what they need at their fingertips, said Weinstein.
"For instance, we've had a severe shortage of antibacterial wipes. People are worried about getting sick," she said. "But some scientists say antibacterial wipes aren't any better than regular soap because COVID-19 is viral not bacterial. The strengths-based approach would ask, 'So, I don't have antibacterial wipes. What do I have? I have a bar of soap. I can still wash my hands. I'll be okay.'"
People are also a resource, she said. "Facebook has these very active community groups, which I'm on, where someone might share, 'Hey, I'm out of toilet paper. Can I swap you a roll of toilet paper for a package of antibacterial wipes?'"
"Online community groups like these are everywhere," she said. "Just google your town/locality or go on sites like Instagram, Reddit, Facebook or Twitter and do a search of your town. An app called Nextdoor can also help you locate your online community."
And don't forget the resources you have within yourself, said Weinstein. "There are people posting things like, 'I'm a computer programmer. I'm willing to teach people skills that can help them get a job.' Another person went through their entire neighborhood putting letters in everyone's mailboxes that said, 'If you need something, call me. I don't know you, but I'm healthy and I'm available, call me if you need anything.' Support seems to work best person to person, community by community or neighborhood by neighborhood."
It's not wishful thinking nor escapism to challenge feelings of doom, she said. In fact, it requires a tremendous amount of courage to let yourself see what is already there, to see that there are things you can do and that there is a community of support behind them.