Following the spirit of Technion President Uri Sivan’s message of “community is immunity,” the Technion Student Association (TSA) has mobilized hundreds of students to minimize the human cost of COVID-19 in Israel. While coping with a rigorous academic workload as well as the hardships brought on by the coronavirus, the student volunteers are eagerly contributing their time and skills to help those most affected by the crisis.
The efforts began in late February when approximately 15 students were self-quarantined in the dorms of Technion City. Many didn’t have family in Israel, so the TSA quickly stepped up to support them by staying in contact, providing food, and helping in other ways. As the Technion moved their curriculums online, the TSA has been involved in ensuring that students are not affected academically by COVID-19.
Simultaneously, the TSA reached out to help the community as Israel’s population moved into lockdown. Working in close collaboration with Haifa’s Welfare Department, the TSA identified self-isolating senior citizens who are suffering from loneliness and other quarantine-related issues. More than 100 Technion students are calling them regularly to alleviate their sense of isolation and check to make sure they are alright. If necessary, the students pass on specific problems and requests to the appropriate entities. They also pack food and distribute meals to elderly citizens who had previously picked up their meals in person but cannot do so during the coronavirus pandemic.
Children in Israel are expected to continue their education remotely, but some do not have computers and are forced to stop studying. So, the TSA and Haifa’s Welfare Department are coordinating an initiative to donate computers to those in need. The TSA already ran a project whereby old Technion computers were fixed and upgraded by student volunteers and donated to Technion students. This project has been extended to Haifa’s school children so they can pursue their education remotely. The Technion’s Henry and Marilyn Taub Faculty of Computer Science has also generously donated many computers and TSA volunteers are contacting high-tech companies and other potential donors.
“As Technion students, we understand the importance of education and we want to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity,” says Linoy Nagar Shaul, TSA Chair. Linoy, who spoke recently in our Live From Technion webinar series, added that other cities in northern Israel have approached them to join the computer donation project.
Students at the Technion Rappaport Faculty of Medicine are also on board. Childcare for doctors has become a national priority as medical staff are working long hours, grandparents are self-isolating, and schools are closed. Technion medical students, led by TSA Medical Student Chair Yael Avraham Ahrak, are volunteering to staff an ad hoc school for the children of doctors working at Haifa’s Rambam Health Care Campus.
Medical students are also:
- volunteering with Magen David Adom, Israel’s Red Cross, to test for COVID-19 at the drive-through testing station in Haifa as well as in patients’ homes
- helping healthcare clinics in tasks such as triage, equipping COVID-19 patients with protective gear, and working in the clinics’ call centers
- volunteering to keep in touch with Holocaust survivors and senior citizens through the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims
- planning to volunteer in mental health clinic of Rambam Health Care Campus
The Rappaport Faculty of Medicine is also hosting Technion doctoral student volunteers to work in virology labs in order to speed up the processing of COVID-19 tests.
Ever innovative, the TSA is organizing a blood drive on campus that adheres to social distancing guidelines and is planning other activities to alleviate the plight of everyone affected by the current crisis. Indeed, in the midst of this global catastrophe, the involvement of Technion students in so many crucial outreach projects — despite their academic obligations — shows how this cloud has a silver lining.