We caught up with Thrive alumna Hadassah Raskas, who studied abroad with us in Fall 2019 from UPenn. She's been up to a lot during this pandemic! Having co-founded a volunteering site, Corona Connects, allowing people to continue to give back to their communities despite the virus, we were intrigued to hear all about it.
1. When did the idea of starting Corona Connects come to you?
Just days after schools started shutting down in early March - we didn’t know how long this would last, but we knew the world was turning upside down and that the world was facing unprecedented amounts of need. We ourselves were searching for a way to help, but couldn’t figure out what we could do- and that’s when it hit us (myself and my friend Elana Sichel), what if we could aggregate volunteer opportunities and connect college students with time to people in need of help?
2. In the ‘About Us’ it says that your team didn’t know where to start, so where did you begin from and how did you go about it?
We started with a spreadsheet with just 20 or so volunteer opportunities which we posted on Facebook, when we saw it getting shared and starting to really get some traction, we realized this was helpful and wanted to do more. Fast forward a few weeks, we had gotten a couple more friends involved and had a full blown website. Over the summer a team of college students came together and joined our team helping us to improve our site, reach more volunteers and find more opportunities.
3. How many volunteers do you currently have?
To make the process easy and seamless, we don't collect that type of information. However, we do know that we’ve had 13,000+ visitors on our site and about a third of those visitors connect off to explore opportunities that we’ve linked them to.
4. Where do you see the future of the organization going post-pandemic?
While we first created this site to help during COVID-19, we realized that the need to make volunteering more easy and accessible to young people is not just a pandemic specific problem. We’ve pivoted a bit since the early days and are now working on a startup that is focused on making volunteering easy with the mission of empowering a new generation of volunteers to step up and tackle the social needs of the future.
5. What is the most popular type of volunteer work?
Part of the premise of our site is that people will volunteer more if they love what they’re doing and so we really wanted to help people find the right opportunity for them. That being said, tutoring had been one of our most popular opportunities
6. How do your Jewish roots impact your need to give back?
Elana and I have spoken about how our Jewish roots and education really ingrained in us the value of chesed to the point where when the world shut down, finding a way to help was really important to us.
7. What has been the most exciting story that’s come out of this initiative?
I get really excited by the ripple effects, one day I randomly stumbled on a LinkedIn post with a student giving a shout out to Corona Connects for connecting him with the most powerful volunteering experience he’s ever had. He spent the summer volunteering for COVID-19 watch, a nonprofit startup that is now helping to keep tens of thousands of college students safe using decentralized Bluetooth technology.
*Please note, while the website is still live, Corona Connects is unfortunately not actively adding new opportunities to their website currently. It’s certainly still a resource & starting point for people who are searching for volunteer opportunities.