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Community Engagement During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Background

William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement values and promotes active citizenship - that is, prioritizing community in our values and life choices. The COVID-19 crisis has made this seemingly simple thing even more complex than it typically is.

In these times of increasing community distress in areas of physical and mental health and economic stability, we have an urgent call to support our community through responsible, mutually-beneficial, justice-based engagement.

We also prioritize the health and safety of community members and students, and seek to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission in any community engagement activity.

As we prioritize all of these communities, we have developed guidelines that allow us to continue supporting our partners and engaging students in meaningful service, while mitigating risk. 

Guidelines

William & Mary COVID guidelines apply to all OCE-sponsored engagement, including in our programs and via GivePulse, our listserv, or other promotion. This includes masking and distancing requirements, regardless of whether the opportunity is on or off campus. 

Additional requirements and guidelines have been developed for each OCE program and will be communicated to program participants. Our programs are developed in partnership with community organizations often serving vulnerable populations, which may require additional levels of health protocols to safeguard everyone’s wellbeing. 

Students will be responsible for providing and properly wearing their own masks and sanitizing hands before going on site. Community partners will be responsible for ensuring that all others on site adhere to current COVID requirements. 

Any in-person service as part of OCE programs will have a Partnership Agreement completed by the partner and the OCE before service begins. OCE staff will have a thorough conversation with partner staff to learn their safety protocols and ensure that our safety protocols can be upheld by the partner.

Transportation
OCE vehicles may be used for local transportation to service sites. While in the van, masks must be worn at all times and all windows must be open.  
Adapting to Changing Conditions

In-person service will immediately discontinue at any particular site when any party is uncomfortable or any party does not fulfill their responsibilities for taking precautions. Reinstatement will follow further (remote) conversation with and agreement between students, partner staff, and OCE staff.

In-person service will discontinue immediately at all sites when a positive case emerges at the site, or when local public health conditions require.  The OCE may also discontinue support of in-person service based on other measures, as this situation is fluid.

These guidelines will be changed and updated, as needed, based on the most current public health guidance and Virginia regulations. Updates will be posted on our website, in our listserv, and social media (@oceatwm). You may contact oce@wm.edu with additional questions.

How You Can Help

Now is a critical time to engage our William & Mary value of service and support community responses to COVID-19. You can explore opportunities to serve and advocate for the greater good at W&M GivePulse, our online platform for community engagement. As you do, please remember to take care of yourself as well.

Effective community engagement pairs direct service with education and reflection. As you respond to COVID-19 through service, we encourage you to learn about the local and global issues related to COVID-19 and reflect on your own experiences during the pandemic.
resources on issue education and reflection
Education
Reflection

Fruitful reflection is a process of synthesizing experiences, thoughts, and beliefs. As you volunteer, consider questions like: What draws me to this opportunity? What is the impact of my work on my community? How has my volunteer experience affected my understanding of my role in community?

For more direct questions about service in the time of COVID-19, check out this resource from Loyola University Chicago. Some highlighted questions include:

  • Public health practitioners often focus specifically on how certain communities may be either more at risk or more resilient in the face of outbreaks. When you think of the individuals you met at your [service], are there certain factors that put them more at risk to outbreaks like COVID-19? Are there certain factors that uniquely give them an advantage?
  • Some students experienced having to be relocated unexpectedly due to larger issues outside of your control. Has this made you more aware of or think differently about issues of freedom of mobility?
  • Public health crises often serve as a window into how individuals understand their role and obligations to others in society because we are often asked to change our patterns of behavior or interactions with others. How do you understand your obligations and responsibilities to others? Has this experience challenged or confirmed that?
For Community Organizations

If volunteers could be of assistance to you, either in-person or remotely, please reach out to us at [[oce]] or submit your request through W&M GivePulse. W&M volunteers can help with direct-service opportunities as well as capacity work like project research, creating captions or translations for content, data entry, and communications.  

We encourage you to review our remote service projects menu for potential projects W&M volunteers can complete to support your organization. 

Learn more about William & Mary's COVID-19 Response.