Language and cultural barriers can make caring for the elderly in some San Diego communities difficult, but two sisters started a grass roots volunteer movement to help solve it.
It was a post on Facebook of an older man staring at empty grocery shelves that compelled these two sisters to create COVID-19 Community Outreach.
“We have to fix this. We have to do something to help the community,” SDSU student Milano Sliwa thought.
So that’s what she and her sister, second-year UC San Diego pharmacy student Monica Sliwa did. While it started with just them two, the volunteer group has grown to over 30 in just a week.
"It is very important to keep everyone safe when we can,” Monica said.
The sisters started volunteering to grocery shop for the elderly in their own Chaldean community after the statewide order to shelter at home came.
“But through social media they recruited enough volunteers to service several neighborhoods where English is a second language.
COVID-19 Community Outreach deals in “Farsi, Arabic, Chaldean, Spanish, Hindu, Japanese, I can go on,” Monica said.
They take orders online and by text, fill them at local stores, then deliver the groceries to their clients’ front doors. They are careful to keep appropriate social distance. Participants never have to leave their home or pay a service fee.
While much younger than their clients, these sisters emigrated from Iraq just nine years ago. They share a deeper connection then you might think with them, and now a deeper appreciation.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to use the languages that I speak with others and make them feel comfortable because I know what it feels like when you don't speak English,” Monica said.
While both the Sliwa sisters return to virtual classes next week, they are determined to continue deliveries and are encouraging others to do the same as long as they're needed.
If you or anyone you know needs delivery or would like to volunteer, you can reach out to the sisters via email at Covid19outreachsd@gmail.com.