We don't need to tell you that the past few weeks have been pretty surreal. But amid all the social distancing and precautionary closures, one thing has become abundantly clear: We're all looking for ways to help each other get through these extraordinary times.
Prior to being forced to close their dine-in services, some restaurants, for example, were offering free meals to kids affected by COVID-19 school closures, no questions asked. Fitness centers are offering free online exercise classes to help keep our bodies and minds healthy. Musicians have joined together to stream free online concerts. Hollywood celebrities are reading books to children on social media from inside their homes, while at the same time at least one notable children's book author is hosting daily doodling lessons on YouTube.
In Rochester, two sisters are helping to make sure health care workers and other essential staff don't have to worry about finding childcare while they remain on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. "I was talking with my parents. I'm like, 'What are they going to do — the people who have to work, but have young children and don't have older children like my parents have me to watch my little brother,'" Rioghna Pittock tells the Post-Bulletin. "How are they going to do this?"
Rioghna, a junior at Mayo High School in Rochester, and her sister, Hannah, a senior at the University of Chicago (and the daughters of Mayo Clinic physicians Sean Pittock, M.D., and Siobhan Pittock, M.B., B.Ch.) decided they'd help by launching an online service for health care and other essential workers in need of childcare during COVID-19 school closures. "We're told to stay inside and socially isolate, and that's all you can do. It makes you feel kind of helpless," Hannah tells the P-B. "This initiative isn't reinventing the wheel. It's empowering young people to do what they can."
Called Step Up to SIT, the sisters' online service connects high school and college students willing to offer their babysitting services with families who need them to keep working. Right now, Hannah and Rioghna are making those matches manually, though they "have plans to build an algorithm that will eventually do the matching automatically."
Until then, they'll continue to do the work required to connect child care providers with parents and guardians who need them most. According to this KARE11 story, within the first four days, "160 teens have registered to help, most willing to work free if paired with a family in need." And the duo has already “paired more than 40 families with sitters."
And they're not done, because in addition to Step Up to SIT, Rioghna and Hannah have also launched Step Up to SHOP, a companion effort to connect "volunteer shoppers with vulnerable community members in isolation" who are "in need of groceries and supplies."
"The young people are stepping up," Hannah tells the P-B. Indeed they are.