Even when you can’t be around your community, you can still give back to it. Check out the service projects below for ways to help your friends, family, and fellow New Yorkers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Do you have masks to wear outside? How about others in your family? We’ve all heard how important masks are—and now people are making their own and even making extras that they can give to neighbors, essential workers, first responders, and hospitals.
Different ways to make masks
Follow any of the simple instructions below to make your masks. Remember to get creative! Use the logo from a t-shirt you’ve outgrown or bedsheets with a colorful pattern. If you have fabric markers you can decorate your masks with any design.
Remember, smaller size face masks are needed, too. Children over 2 years old are expected to wear masks in public.
Giving masks to others
For safe distribution, place masks in plastic baggies that can be sealed.
Also, consider adding a message of hope and support for the person who takes the mask.
Think about your circle of friends and family.
Are any connected with first responders, hospital workers, essential employees, or others who need masks?
Post photos of your masks on social media (add hashtags!) and ask if anyone needs them. Think of a contactless way to get your masks to your friends. Maybe you can leave them on a bench or doorstep.
Place the masks in plastic bags and pin to a fence or leave on your doorstep with a note inviting people to take what they need.
Think of creative ways to draw attention to this giveaway. Do you have any balloons in your house? Blow up a balloon and draw a face so it becomes your mask model. Tie the balloon to a fence or doorknob near the masks in plastic bags that you want to distribute.
Voting is one of the cornerstones to getting your voice heard. As we’ve seen, elections matter. Whether you’re over or under 18, there are many ways to get involved in NYC.
If you’re 16 or over and haven’t registered to vote, do it today! (In NY State, 16- and 17-year-olds can pre-register—and it will automatically register you on your 18th birthday!)
If you’re under 16, not a naturalized citizen, or already registered, you can still make a big impact:
People love seeing things in windows right now as they take (socially distant!) walks. Make voting posters for your street-facing windows or hang them in your apartment building. Include things like facts about voting, how to register, and why everyone should participate.
Find opportunities to participate
Check out these NYC organizations to discover more ways to get involved:
DemocracyNYC wants to make NYC the fairest city in America. Find ways to become a participant and pledge to help the city.
NYC Votes offers information about upcoming elections, registration and more. Check it out!
Next Generation Politics is founded by youth to enable their peers to fulfill their obligations as citizens and develop into an empowered, politically informed, and socially aware generation.
Learn more: What does voting matter?
Learn more about democracy, our collective history, and the challenges faced by many to still be able to vote.
Videos to watch
So You Think You Can Vote? A quick look at the history of US voting rights shows how we got here, and what obstacles might prevent you from voting.
One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden One person, one vote? Learn about the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Also learn about the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election season. Includes ideas for getting involved in your community.
Lilian’s Right to Vote – A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans This visual history of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 traces an elderly African American woman en route to vote. While making the “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the 15th Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. A must-read to learn about civil rights and never to take voting for granted. For all ages.
Winning the Vote for Women by Caryn Jenner This book reveals the stories behind the strong-willed people from around the world who fought for the right to vote. Through photography, illustrations, and narrative, meet the women—and the men—from every continent who fought both for and against the suffrage movement, and those that are continuing the fight today.
The President of the Jungle by André Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo, Pedro Markun The animals are frustrated by the lion abusing his role as “King of the Jungle.” Owl says, “Let’s be a democracy! Let’s hold an election!” With clear rules including candidates cannot eat their opponents, the election process goes in full force. Who among the four candidates be disqualified and who will be elected? Ideal to compare jungle election rules with our own. All ages because picture books are fun!
Play your part to make NYC zero waste by 2050!
Gardening and sustainability connects us back to the basics—food, nature, and the planet. This is a good time for growing, looking at our own practices, and planting seeds of hope.
First Step: Get informed about urban gardens and growing things in NYC
Join Green Thumb live or watch recordings of online workshops to help you keep your community/home gardens going during quarantine, or even start one from scratch. Webinars and live events are offered to help you start a garden, Latinx culture and cooking, and more!
Even if you can’t plant seeds right now, you can plant seeds of hope!
Share with your friends and family what you are looking forward to doing together once quarantine has ended.
Talk about the thorns and roses of this situation—or just of your day. This is something Barack and Michelle Obama used to do with their children each night. They would share something challenging (thorns) and something good (roses) about their day. Share your thorns and roses with friends and family to connect and process this experience together.
Think about ways you can support one another right now. Even though we’re all going through something hard, we can always help each other bloom. Try to do one thing a week, or even one a day, for someone.
Solidarity with NYC's Immigrant Community
Learn and take action!
NYC is home to over 3.1 million immigrants who speak over 200 languages, own half of our small businesses, and are an integral part of how we thrive as a city. Whether you are an immigrant, a child of immigrants, or someone who just cares about immigrants, there are plenty of ways to take action during COVID-19. How can you stand in solidarity with our city’s immigrant community?
Make a poster with one fact from the “Know Your Rights” workshop, then post in your window or in your apartment building to educate others (if it faces the street, even better!).
Create a “Do you know” quiz for friends and family to increase their understanding, and run a virtual quiz night!
Keep learning more! Check out the links at the bottom of this post for other topics.
Read about the Public Charge Rule, and get two friends to do this with you. Each of you can read different info and teach each other. Then…
Make a video together to share with friends and family so they learn what you learned.
Make posters with a fact, and post on a window (if it faces the street, even better!) or in your apartment building.
Post facts on social media and challenge others to learn and add so everyone becomes informed.
Complete the census
Fill out the census with your family and community!
Watch videos with your community where CensusGirl explains the purpose of the Census!
Check out Count Us In for information and guidance on how to talk to your community and family – especially if they are nervous about filling the Census out because of their immigration status.
Then fill out the actual Census with your family and community. It’s 10 questions, takes 10 minutes, and impacts NYC for the next 10 years!
Share about the census on social media using facts you learned in your research!
Create a “Census: Myths and Facts” poster for your window. This is especially helpful in communities with a high number of immigrants who may be nervous about responding – and if you are bilingual, be sure to post in other languages!