April 3, 2020
Tags: Anytown Alumni, Community, Youth Leadership,
“A glimmer of hope” in a difficult time – that’s how Taika Sorjonen (ANYTOWN ’19, center) thinks of their volunteer babysitting service.
It’s a simple but powerful idea: while schools are closed, local high school students provide free babysitting services so that parents can still go to work without worrying about unexpected childcare costs.
“I had the idea literally a few hours before Governor Cooper closed the schools down,” Taika says. After seeing a friend from another state organize a similar volunteer babysitting service, Taika reached out to him and got to work. “He gave me all the resources he used and within about an hour I had reached out to people and gotten about 15 high school volunteers. Later that day, I made the Facebook page for parents.”
Taika’s idea quickly went viral. Their original post offering the free babysitting service has now been shared by more than 1,600 people. They’ve been interviewed by multiple local news sources and NBC national news has contacted them.
Even with all this publicity, Taika says they haven’t been flooded with requests – and they’re fine with that. “I think maybe it represents more of a glimmer of hope for a lot of people. In total, I’ve only gotten 11 or 12 requests. I’m glad to help where I’m able.” And Taika has been sure to take necessary precautions, confirming the health of both volunteers and families. Since the stay at home order has gone into effect, they have suspended the service for everyone’s safety.
Taika is right. Hope is something we all need right now. We need to see the people in our community stepping up, helping out, and being there for others. Like most of us, Taika is adjusting to the recent changes in their life. One of the most challenging things has been adjusting to canceled plans – alternative prom, visiting their best friend in Brazil, and all of the classic high school senior year activities.
Trying to establish some kind of routine and keeping in touch with people has been important for Taika. “Not everyone needs to establish a babysitting service, but just check in on your friends’ mental health and your family. It’s important not to bury your head in the sand.” But it’s also important that we look after ourselves too, we can’t put all of our energy into other people. “I think it’s just really important to not only check in with each other, but also to check on your own mental health. I recognize that it’s a privilege to have time to work on your mental health, but if you have the opportunity you should take it.”
This is certainly uncharted territory for many of us. Taika offers this piece of advice for everyone: “All we can do is make the best of the situation. And make sure to check in on each other – make it a habit if it’s not already. Make it a way to bring something good to the situation.”