Bridging the Gap with CovidSMS
Updated: May 5, 2021
In the midst of a global health crisis, during which millions of people have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay for basic necessities, I found myself collaborating with students around the country to work towards a common goal: for underserved communities to be connected to the resources they need without worrying if their savings will stretch to cover the cost.
One of my favorite aspects of CovidSMS is how it was built from the ground up when there was a need for it in the community. We provide a text service for city departments, nonprofits, and clinics to disseminate information about affordable food, counseling, medical care, and Covid-19 resources. On a typical day at CovidSMS, I and other members of the Community Outreach team will make numerous calls to clinics, hospitals, nonprofits, shelters, and community resource centers to inquire about the resources they provide and if they are in need of a communications platform to further disseminate information to their clients. We reach out to organizations, schedule virtual meetings with them, and refine our service with each partnership that comes by.
While working in outreach, I learned that many organizations are struggling and overwhelmed, with rapidly diminishing funds and resources at their disposal. As a representative of CovidSMS, it is important for me to explain how our service could potentially save their time and resources. If these clinics and nonprofits partner with us in the hopes that it will help their community, then we have to build a service that can be a credit to their organization.
In August of 2020, I formed a partnership with the Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital, also known as the LAC+USC Medical Center. I left a voicemail for the Communications and Development Manager, after which she called me back and we scheduled a meeting. She explained that the Wellness Center had previously considered text messages as a potential avenue for communication with patients, but this idea had not been realized due to the pandemic. She was excited to use our texting service and broadcast portal to effectively disseminate safety information about Covid-19 and advertise some of their virtual support groups, fitness programs, and health education classes. During my subsequent meetings with members of their Communications team, we worked together to create a user flow, set up their account for the broadcast portal, and launch their customized phone number. Through this partnership, I learned that many organizations have programs which could greatly benefit their community, but people may not be aware that these resources exist.
During these past months at CovidSMS, we have continued to improve our service by adding information about vaccine appointments and translating menu options into a variety of languages. I launched community outreach efforts in Texas, and have since reached out to several organizations, including the Hope Clinic and Houston Food Bank, in order to converse with them about the impact of the pandemic on their operations. Some food assistance programs have been temporarily discontinued due to online learning, including services that would send students home with food for the weekend. Many low-income families also do not have reliable access to the internet, and thus may not be aware of resources that are only advertised or available online. Our objective at CovidSMS is to provide a customized platform to connect organizations with the populations they serve, so that more individuals can benefit from these community resources in the future.