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"Scared that I might not be able to deliver but 100 percent committed to the leader, team, and mission."

Letter being written by child
By Kate Hilton

United States

Last week, my dear friend, the director of an emergency department in New England, called me on her way to work with these words: "I have three things I need you to do for me. One, organize child care for all our hospital staff and emergency personnel, yesterday. Two, pull together an agenda and tips for me to facilitate a peer support group for my staff because I learned that it is harder than I thought. Three, cull the best research right now and put together an easy-to-understand presentation for me to share with my friends and family at my Sunday night Zoom town hall so I can keep them informed."

I felt a lump rise in my throat… and swallowed it. I felt like a soldier taking orders from a commander: Scared that I might not be able to deliver but 100 percent committed to the leader, team, and mission.

I dropped everything and took action.

Now, my life has been upended like everyone else around the world. I live in New Hampshire where my husband and two boys are under lockdown orders like most Americans. We possess the luxury to social distance in a rural community that not all global citizens enjoy right now. And I am a white woman—the daughter of a doctor and a nurse—with a professional degree and the disproportionate advantages that background affords me.

After the call, I started with the most challenging task: a system for matching families of health care workers and emergency personnel with child care providers, in a state that didn’t have a governor’s order to provide child care, but where social distancing orders were in place. 

Drawing on my organizing skills that I’ve spent the bulk of my career honing, I texted close friends to brainstorm whom to reach out to. I fired off an urgent email to the Town Manager, Superintendent, and the Director of the local community center which runs an after-school program with now out-of-work child care providers. In an email chain with one too many emails from me (not-so-subtle note: I wasn't taking no for an answer), they exercised collaborative leadership at its best, reached out to their counterparts in the health system, and put something together within two workdays. The system: Child care providers sign up to be matched with one frontline family (and commit to social distancing practices alongside that family); families are given names and vet service providers themselves. (View another system organizers are using in the state of Vermont.)

I wasn't sure I could do this when I got my friend’s call. In the end, all it took was being asked, and reaching out to the right people.

The other two asks were straightforward enough. View the peer support group template in case of use to other health care workers.

I am one of many foot soldiers, a helper to be deployed again by real heroes among us. There is an army rising across our communities doing what it can to support frontline staff and emergency personnel. The images and calls to act are everywhere: Feed the Frontlines. Signs of thanks outside homes and churches. Hearts on mailboxes to show appreciation. PPE drives and mask sewing efforts. Letters written to frontline friends and family by now homeschooled second graders. Med students running errands for emergency personnel.

Don't stop, helpers. We all have something we can do or give to the most critical mission there is: Supporting our frontline healthcare and emergency personnel to save our lives.

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