As much of the world continues to self-quarantine and limit its exposure to COVID-19, some of the most isolated people — the elderly and those unable to connect with close friends and family — need a helping hand more than ever. Carissa Tripi, a traveling field engineer currently supporting a Combat Electromagnetic Environment Simulator customer in Harpenden, United Kingdom (UK), is volunteering with the Harpenden Cares Contact Center and offering that helping hand, albeit with sanitizer and gloves as needed. This English town is just north of London. “Harpenden Cares is a community-led response to the Coronavirus pandemic that aims to support at-risk local people, keep key services running and be a trusted source of information,” Carissa said. “We offer help and coordination with delivering essential supplies and medication, including access to food bank parcels if needed. We also offer a befriending service for vulnerable and isolated people, such as a friendly phone call to elderly people who are isolating.” Graphic for Harpenden Cares featuring a heart shape with a border made from multi-colored paper dolls. Carissa volunteers twice a week for about two to four hours at a time, taking calls from community members in need or other potential donors or volunteers. “I’ve had some awesome calls from community members offering help and some tough calls too from people who are isolating and worried about how they’ll get food and medicines,” she said. “It’s been such a rewarding experience to be able to reassure them that they’ll be supported and looked after in these uncertain times.” Carissa has been in the UK for two years and plans to stay for one more. When the Coronavirus outbreak began, she saw an opportunity to make an impact in her temporary home of Harpenden. “Harpenden is a community that takes care of each other, and that support system has become an invaluable lifeline,” she said. “While isolation and social distancing may require physical space between people, the members of this community have representatively pulled together to ensure that no one is left behind or left without.” Carissa has also witnessed her own family pull together amidst the pandemic, even though they are an ocean apart. “I’ve seen the same ‘pull together’ force that’s at work in the Harpenden community in my own family, through an influx of daily emails, group chats, phone calls, pictures, audio snips (including some singing) — we’ve gone total multimedia in our communications,” Carissa said. “My husband’s 90-year-old grandmother recently discovered that she’s a pro at video chats.” April 21, 2020