A volunteer who signed up to deliver groceries during the pandemic rode a bicycle from his home in North York to Etobicoke to get groceries he was delivering for a senior in his community. On his way back he got a call. The senior needed refills of his medications, which he had forgotten to add to the list.
The volunteer didn’t ask any questions. He simply turned around and biked all the way back to Etobicoke to get the medicine and deliver it. It’s just one story that illustrates the effect of the Good Neighbour Project, a volunteer organization that launched in March 2020 to deliver groceries and other necessities to the vulnerable during the pandemic.
These are the kind of stories co-founder Maduba Ahmad had come to expect from its volunteers. She describes them as the project’s heart and soul. And she shares their passion for helping others.
“Inaction has never been an option for me,” Ahmad said during an evening Zoom call from her home.
Watch: The Good Neighbour Project helps those in need
Ahmad’s longtime friend Tariq Syed, a business analyst from Mississauga, dreamed up the project after visiting a grocery store with his six-year-old daughter early on in the pandemic. She pointed out how the older citizens couldn’t pick heavy items and were struggling amid the hysteria to stockpile supplies.
In 24 hours, Syed and Ahmad had a hotline up and running with a poster that went viral on social media apps like WhatsApp. Within its first day, Good Neighbour Project got over 40 phone calls requesting and offering help, and within its first week over 2,000 volunteers had signed up.
“The phone has never stopped ringing ever since,” said Ahmad as she went on to explain how the project has been a positive outlet to focus all her energy.
Since January, the project has been receiving at least 100 requests for help each week. Last year, it had 2,984 unique requesters and made more than 6,700 deliveries in the Greater Toronto Area.
The project connects volunteers with seniors who need help to pick up groceries and other necessities safely and privately.
Requesters make their requests through the hotline. Limited information that protects their privacy is then posted on a Facebook group of volunteers who can then choose to make the trip to a nearby food bank to get the items if they’re nearby and have time.
“In mid-March when the dilemma came that seniors, elderly were to isolate, I knew I couldn’t get out to the stores,” senior Hellen Lehtinen said in a promotional video for the project. “Then I happened to hear about this [Good Neighbour Project] … it answered all my needs for getting weekly shopping done.”
The project has helped some of the volunteers form lasting friendships with seniors.
“I do this because I like doing this,” said Kody Lin, a 23-year-old volunteer who has helped around 200 people with his deliveries.
He graduated from university two years ago and hopes to join the police service.
“I always have my mask on. I always sanitize. I carry a Purell with me at all times,” Lin said.
Ahmad has a 98-year-old she supports regularly and works to make sure every delivery is contactless.
When asked what makes Good Neighbour Project stand out from many other similar services, she replied: ”There is no competition in doing good.”
Photos courtesy of the Good Neighbour Project