The Good Neighbour Project (GNP) started in the month of April 2020 with an intention to help the most vulnerable members of our society. When the pandemic hit several countries and the risk of contracting the virus escalated, everybody was panic buying all essentials. Tariq Syed, the Founder of GNP saw some elderly people struggling at a grocery store. This broke his heart, and he decided to help them with a simple yet innovative idea.
Tariq started a Facebook group and connected with people who were willing to step up and support the society. The idea was to support the most vulnerable members of the community. Volunteers would complete groceries purchase for those who are at higher risk and deliver it to them. This is how the Good Neighbour Project started.
Ruhi, one of the founding members of GNP, explains, “We, as GNP focus on 6 main groups - senior citizens, people with compromised immunity, healthcare workers, pregnant women, single parents, and people in self-isolation. GNP operates on a basic idea of connecting the most vulnerable section of society staying at home with volunteers who are willing to help. Initially, we recognized that there was a great demand because stores had long delays in delivery services. Additionally, stores like Walmart, where people needed something urgently, had a waiting time of two weeks for delivery. So, GNP started to cater to this gap. We set up a hotline which is open from 8 am to 8 pm, 7 days a week. Moreover, we also partnered with local food banks and women shelters that need food to be picked up and delivered”.
GNP welcomes anyone between the ages of 18-65 to volunteer provided, they are not in contact with COVID-19 positive patients. To date, our volunteer community includes a total of 6,000 volunteers across Toronto, London, and Ottawa, and 40 people are working in the internal team managing the hotline and the social media handles.
GNP recognizes a load of groceries as small, medium, and large. When a request is placed, the internal team of GNP connects the requester with one of the volunteers based on the location and the number of grocery products. Ruhi says, “The volunteers not only spend their time and efforts but also their own money to help the requesters by paying for the groceries. The money is later reimbursed by the requester in the form of cash, e-transfer, or a cheque. Moreover, we ensure that all our volunteers strictly follow the guidelines highlighted by the public health agency of Canada”.
Shanaya, a delivery and hotline intake volunteer, explains the willingness of the volunteers to go beyond and help. “In order to deliver groceries to our requesters, a lot of us use our own vehicles, bikes, or public transport while some even assist with the deliveries on foot. Overall, it takes about 2-3 hours for a volunteer to arrange and deliver the groceries end to end. This shows how far the volunteers are willing to go in order to support the community and extend their help. The group grew very quickly. One of the reasons for this growth is that many young people would have taken up a summer job, but because of COVID-19, everything is shut. This works out pretty well for us, as a community, to step outside our houses to support those in need.”
Volunteering with GNP has been a wonderful experience for Shanaya. She adds, “I believe GNP and its volunteers are setting a good example for the younger generation. Recently, my 12-year-old brother offered to help and deliver on his bike. I was so happy to see him so motivated to make a difference in someone’s life. I remember when I delivered the groceries the first time, the lady was so grateful to my services that she gifted me bath salts as a token of appreciation. That was really sweet. We do not stop after one delivery. We make sure we check up on our requesters often to ensure they are doing okay. For us, this may not be a big effort, but so many people, who are stuck at home, look forward to the deliveries and little interactions with us.”
Ruhi adds on, “We feel great when some of our requesters simply call in to pay gratitude or a shout out to our services and volunteers. Once we received a call from a woman who probably had tried calling different organizations for food delivery, but she failed to get help. She was so overwhelmed when we accepted her request that she cried over the phone thanking us again and again. She was so relieved that now her food was secured and will be delivered to her doorstep. Experiencing such moments make all our efforts totally worth it.”
This unprecedented phase has highlighted that there is so much potential for such services, even post the pandemic, and we strongly hope that we can continue to extend our support to the community.
You Humanity pays respect and gratitude to the entire team of Good Neighbour Project for going above and beyond to contribute towards Humanity. If you know someone who is working for others, please share the story https://www.youhumanity.com/share-your-story