Zelos was launched in autumn 2019 to make task delegation easier for event and festival managers. The appearance of COVID-19 provided the Zelos team with the unique opportunity of pushing the boundaries of the application and helping our immediate neighborhood with Zelos Community Helpline.
How Zelos helped senior citizens during a crisis
Zelos was designed with the idea of bridging the digital gap that may exist between organisations and volunteers. When the Coronavirus crisis hit Europe, the Zelos team realized there were two issues in our immediate community:
- According to Statistics Estonia, our country has a considerable senior population (19.7%), which has a high risk of suffering the adverse effects of COVID-19.
- There were people who wanted to help others, but were not finding an opportunity of doing so. Hence the emergence of initiatives like #HackTheCrisis.
It was then that the team decided to use Zelos for a mutual aid network – a helpline for senior citizens who might not be tech-savvy, and proactive community volunteers ready to help them during the government-mandated quarantine.
To test this idea, the some members from Zelos signed up for the first ever #HackTheCrisis, a remote hackathon focused on solutions to help the Estonian community cope with the quarantine.
From hackathon idea to helpline launch
Over 30 projects were started and evaluated during the 48 hours in which #HacktheCrisis took place. The Zelos team connected its backend with a task triage board on Trello, and set up a call center hotline. This resulted in a solution called COVIDhelp, which was ready to to manually accept help requests from seniors living around Estonia.
The volunteer recruitment was basically a call-to-action published via Facebook and Instagram. In the first 12 hours, there were over 300 volunteer applications of local people interested in helping the elderly community.
An independent website for COVIDhelp was also opened, so people could find information about the project in Estonian, Russian, and English.
By providing a working hotline for seniors and finding willing volunteers, COVIDhelp won the top prize in #HackTheCrisis and started helping the local community with the support of Tele2 which provided the phone lines, and Accelerate Estonia which provided the funds.
Immeidate impact of COVIDhelp
After the win in #HackTheCrisis, COVIDhelp received over 2000 volunteer applications. This resulted in 20 volunteer groups organized geographically to serve the 16 counties and 4 cities in Estonia.
The COVIDhelp configuration was also used by Latvian initiative Paliec Mājās (or “Stay Home” in English) which placed 5th in #HackTheForce, a TechChill remote hackathon. Paliec Mājās sourced local partners in order to help their own senior population, while also using the Zelos COVIDhelp integration to power their task delegation process.
Future Opportunities of COVIDhelp by Zelos
The COVIDhelp experience during the Coronavirus crisis proved how flexible and useful Zelos can be as a volunteer disaster response application. In addition to serving the elderly, the project serviced also other items such as:
- Crowdsource items for medical and rescue teams (like facemasks and sanitizer).
- Finding volunteers that can walk and foster animals currently in pet shelters.
- Engage local communities in taking care of their at-risk neighbors.
- Sending self-care tasks to students to teach and reward hygienic practices.
- Promote mental health via self-care tasks that remind people to release stress healthily.
Fighting a crisis together
The COVIDhelp project created by Zelos is an example for support communities. To launch a community helpline, all that is needed is a good strategy, a group of volunteers, and possibly some support from a local telecom.
Some final notes to consider:
- Zelos was never intended or built for this kind of crisis. Zelos is a team management software for volunteer teams that have a system for verifying and onboarding members.
- Our #HackTheCrisis participation was solely in the role of volunteers and private individuals, not as Zelos employees.
We hope that this Zelos use case inspires the creation of more community-led movements around the world which protect vulnerable populations during this health crisis. As we have seen with COVIDhelp, it only takes 48 hours to start making a positive difference in the lives of both at-risk citizens and willing volunteers.