We enter 2021, reflecting what has come from a challenging year of uprisings, political chaos, and the adversities of COVID-19. Meditation teacher, Shelly Tygielski, sits down with Xander to tell the story of how she started Pandemic Of Love (POL), a volunteer aid organization, and why it's unique approach brings people together more than most grassroots organizations.
Tygielski came up with the idea while home in Florida. "Florida was one of the last states to shut down partly because of leadership', she says. Florida seemed in denial for the longest time as news of the virus and shutdowns traveled the country. Tygielski could see how the shock of job loss and lockdowns affected her Community of "outdoorsy" people who are used to being active in eternal vacation weather.
"There was a lot of fear and people were having anxiety. They were really afraid of sheltering in-home because they were worried about how they were going to make ends meet." This collective anxiety she felt around her gave her the idea to start POL which started with 12 friends but turned into an organization of 15 thousand of what Shelly describes as a Sangha, a meditation community.
As a Floridian who experienced multiple hurricane disasters, Tygielski knew the pandemic was no different in that people needed their most basic needs met immediately. Large nonprofits such as The Red Cross or Americares are great but slow to act. POL engages individuals and families and directly connects them to their counterparts in need, which expedites the donation. "It takes a long time for these organizations, that are well known, to get their act together and to actually get aid to individuals that need it the most," Tygielski explains.
Her site makes it simple and asks who are the "haves" and who are the "have nots"? They are then paired through the easy two-form system of either "Give Help" or "Get Help." There isn't a POL bank account to filter from; donations go straight to the recipient. Shelly believes that now more than ever, a program like POL is essential for its aid and its joining of cultures, class, and people that would not normally interact.
"We haven't had the opportunity to step outside of our house, let alone outside of ourselves." While donating or dropping supplies off at a location is excellent, with Pandemic Of Love direct engagement occurs with help as general as paying one's phone bill or as specifically giving a used sofa to someone who moved into a new space. Shelly calls this "Mutual Aid." This aid stems from the 'It takes a village' mentality, where communities rely on each other for help and currently have moved over 42 million resources since its start in March 2020. Tygielski says. "When a lot of people do a little, it winds up being a lot."
Pandemic Of Love today helps people worldwide and is also working with COVID Survivors For Change to help families affected by the loss of loved ones who were the head of the household.
Community; that's what it's really all about. It's about making sure that we all are elevating each other and sharing information so that we can effectively serve others as best we can."
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