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Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover

Pokemon GO is a game focused on getting out and doing things. In the wake of COVID-19 lockdowns, along with protests and riots that rocked the world, businesses were left in ruins. Niantic (the developer of Pokemon GO) is getting the Pokemon GO community involved in the recovery efforts. But how can Pokemon GO players help businesses recover?

For those who don’t know, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality smartphone game that allows players to catch in-game monsters (the Pokemon) by traveling to real-world locations. Two big mechanics of the game are PokeStops, which allow players to acquire items and quests, and Gyms, which players can conquer for their team and place their Pokemon to guard.

Naturally, these real-world locations attract many Pokemon GO players. Many of the locations are civic or cultural landmarks such as parks and churches, but Niantic has also allowed businesses to pay a fee to make their operations into “sponsored” PokeStops, thereby drawing Pokemon GO-playing customers.

Pokemon GO Players Help Businesses Recover
Image Credit: Niantic

But now Niantic is taking a different approach—one that will let Pokemon GO Players help businesses recover. “At Niantic, we are passionate about bringing communities together and lifting one another up, through the good times and the challenging times,” the company said on their blog. “We understand that many local businesses have experienced unprecedented hardship over the past few months, and we want to help.”

It’s one thing for a big company like Niantic to help businesses, but where to the players come in? The blog continued: “We are inviting Pokémon GO players to nominate their favorite small, local businesses to participate in the Niantic Local Business Recovery Initiative. As part of our efforts to assist the economic recovery of local businesses, we are committed to supporting 1,000 nominated businesses by providing them complimentary promotion in Pokémon GO for one year.

In other words, Niantic will turn the winning storefronts into PokeStops and Gyms in the Pokemon GO game. The businesses will even have access to exclusive in-game promotions. This will raise awareness of the small businesses, draw more traffic to the stores, and help them on the road to economic recovery.

The nominations are open until 31 July, so if you’re a Pokemon GO player head on over and nominate your favorite local business that’s in need of a boost! If you don’t play Pokemon GO, then take a moment to appreciate how people voluntarily help each other in new and innovative ways.

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Distilleries Are Producing Hand Sanitizer

Dr. Neil Ramsay is an anesthesiologist who sits on a committee for Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). In March, they were facing a major dilemma: Dr. Ramsey and his colleagues were trying to figure out a solution to address the incredible rising need for hand sanitizer. A distributor on the committee was warning them of the impending scarcity, and concerns grew that the hospital would run out before the end of the month.

Dr. Ramsay began to ponder about a solution for his hospital. He had heard that many small businesses were making products they usually didn’t sell during the COVID-19 pandemic to aid healthcare workers and the public. He decided to reach out to his friend Chris Nelson, who was an investor in Shelter Point Spirits. Nelson and his wife generously donated $25,000 immediately to a local distillery to kickstart the process of making hand sanitizer.

Distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
Chris Nelson, right, the owner of Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino and an investor in the Shelter Point Distillery on Vancouver Island, delivers hand sanitizer to VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay. Image credit: Arlen Redekop / PNG

Within 48 hours of speaking with Chris Nelson, the Campbell River Distillery delivered the hand sanitizer to VGH. Dr. Ramsay confirms that it distinguishes itself from other hand sanitizers with its strong boozy scent: “When it first arrived, I saw people sniffing their hands and laughing. It smells like whiskey!” Donations of hand sanitizer continued to make their way to the Salvation Army on the Eastside and another hospital, Victoria General.

Many British Columbia based businesses are changing their products and services to help navigate the current pandemic, and Dr. Ramsay doesn’t plan to stop utilizing them. In addition to distilleries producing hand sanitizer, Dr. Ramsay has found a company that is producing nearly 90,000 isolation gowns. This company is Mustang Survival in Burnaby and their typical specialty is marine survival gear. Dr. Ramsay reached out to them about developing a particular water-resistant, breathable hood for doctors to wear while intubating patients.

distilleries are producing hand sanitizer
VGH anesthesiologist Dr. Neil Ramsay wearing the prototype of a hood designed by Burnaby-based Mustang Survival to keep spittle from COVID patients off doctors necks and faces. Image credit Arlen Redekop / PNG

This is an especially important piece of equipment, as intubating patients can cause workers to be covered in spittle. They created a prototype for Dr. Ramsay, and he soon hopes 100s of the hoods will be handed out to his hospital and others that are expressing interest for the extra protection. “…just gives us extra confidence,” Ramsay said gratefully, “I just want to thank people for all the help.”


Around the world, it’s no different. Thousands of distilleries are producing hand sanitizer in the United States for businesses and hospitals. Multiple private services are coming together to produce PPE for healthcare workers—even 3-D printing the PPE. The desire to help our medical personnel is so widespread that nearly every Etsy account owned by someone who can sew features a wide selection of cloth masks. It goes to show that even in such harsh and uncertain times, lots of individuals come together voluntarily to offer their services and knowledge, allowing us to move forward.

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Gollum Livestreaming The Hobbit for Charity

On Thursday, Lord of the Rings’ Gollum actor Andy Serkis announced an independently led charity fundraiser to take place the following day on Friday, May 8—reading the Hobbit over livestream from cover to cover. Gollum livestreaming The Hobbit for charity is probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Serkis said that “While times are tough, I want to take you on one of the greatest fantasy adventures ever written, a 12-hour armchair marathon across Middle Earth while raising money for two amazing charities which are doing extraordinary work right now to help those most in need.”

Gollum Livestreaming The Hobbit for Charity
Image Credit: Best Beginnings

Serkis didn’t disappoint with delivery. He read the dialogue in various different voices, including his famous take on the character Gollum. The “Hobbitathon” was linked over the GoFundMe hosted by Serkis that has since raised over £290,000 and is quickly closing in on the £350,000 goal. Over 650,000 people around the world tuned in to support the virtual fundraising event. The funds will be split evenly and directed to the charities Best Beginnings and NHS Charities Together in their efforts to respond to relief for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Best Beginnings, of which Serkis is an ambassador, is a charity that supports new and expectant parents, babies, and toddlers. They provide educational support and encouragement with their Baby Buddy app, which comes with medical information and videos to help parents while they are unable to have a wider support network.


The app also provides a clinically supervised 24/7 “Baby Buddy Crisis Messenger,” which is available in times of immediate emotional crisis. “By supporting Best Beginnings to support parents, we can all play our part in helping protect babies and toddlers at this time of national emergency and protect their futures,” Serkis wrote in his GoFundMe.

Gollum Livestreaming The Hobbit for Charity
Image Credit: Andy Serkis' GoFundMe

NHS Charities Together is an organization that is providing needed care to medical service providers, volunteers, and medical patients during the crisis. They provide nutrition, mental health care, electronic devices to keep in touch with loved ones while they are apart, and more.


Although the livestream is now private, the GoFundMe is still up for support and donations are pouring in for the act of goodwill. Gollum livestreaming The Hobbit for charity is more evidence that voluntaryism can be effective!

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April 2020 Organizational Update

Despite the world being on hold, April was a productive month for us. We continued to respond to the Covid-19 crisis in any way we could, as well as gearing into the opportunity to come together with our supporters more on social media. This month has been a time of thankfulness for our community and reflecting the power of voluntaryism: when people come together and help one another in times of need. We’re encouraged by the helping hands that joined in on our Covid-19 response project and the involvement in VIA Community. Here’s what we have to look back on:

  • The Covid-19 Relief project provided 94 school children with a month of meals to alleviate the lack of work and resources that came with shelter and quarantine orders across the nation.

  • The Covid-19 PPE project provided 3D-printed personal protection equipment (65 face shields and 35 ear savers) to nurses, doctors, surgeons, EMTs, dentists, and other healthcare workers in response to the shortages.

  • Additionally, we coordinated with volunteers around the country to 3D print PPE for healthcare workers independently.

  • Libertarian merchandise store Liberty Junkies provided support to our Covid-19 Relief projects by donating the profits of their face masks to our foundation as well as bringing awareness to their audience of our cause.

  • Athena Fleeger was recognized Voluntaryist of the Month in VIA Community for her continued support and involvement.

  • Our ongoing t-shirt design contest launched and we are already receiving submissions as well as anticipating more great designs before the May 16th closing date.

With no real end in sight for the government’s COVID-19 lockdowns, we look ahead and know that we will continue to see voluntaryism at work. We continue pushing forward thanks to the encouragement from everyday people offering help and our supporters and donors.

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Seeking Volunteers for our Covid-19 PPE Project

Voluntaryism in Action (VIA) is seeking volunteers for our Covid-19 PPE Project! VIA’s chief of technology, Alon Ganon, is piloting a project to produce face shields in response to the high-demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) since the viral pandemic Covid-19 began sweeping the globe with caution, fear, and necessity.

While many volunteers all over have met the demand by producing cotton masks in their home for close family, friends, and their local hospitals, Ganon’s tool to create these shields is quite unique—a 3D printer, specifically a model created by Czech inventor Josef Prusa who forefronted the original project to produce the face shields when his country was especially hit by the need.

Since then, Ganon has obtained a dependable design for the U.S. based on Prusa’s original design, and now VIA is calling for the community to help with supplies and operations to assemble and process the face shields. The shields are durable and the frames sanitizable, enabling them to last through the remainder of the long pandemic. Here are four ways our voluntaryists can help us with provisions:

  • By donating supplies directly. Needed supplies include clear presentation covers, 1” wide elastic or rubber bands, 1.75 mm of PETG (plastic), and disposable gloves. These supplies can be found and bought online via Amazon Wishlist.
  • By donating your money to Voluntaryism in Action. Money is used to supply the needed materials to make the 3D printed PPE’s as well as the shipping costs to process the completed equipment.
  • By creating and donating face shields to VIA using a 3D printer. The free downloadable file can be found here. VIA accepts them in PLA or ABS—please notate which filament is used when sending them. Those with 3D printers are also encouraged to create bias tape makers to donate to their local sewing communities making fabric masks.
  • Healthcare workers can help additionally by donating face shields to VIA for free or the cost of shipping, as we are managing and processing them to where they are most needed with this project.

If you have any questions about our project or are a healthcare worker in need of a face sheild or you know healthcare workers in need, please reach out to us at info@viaction.org. And please help us spread the word as we continue seeking volunteers for our Covid-19 PPE project!

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March 2020 Organizational Update

March has been an incredibly busy month for us at VIA! We started out the month initiating emergency relief for tornado victims in Tennessee, and then the COVID-19 crisis suddenly turned the world upside down. Many of our volunteers were impacted, but we’ve been able to do our part to help those in our communities and all across the country who were the most affected by the government’s actions.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve accomplished this month:

  • Raised $5K for victims of the severe tornadoes in Nashville and surrounding areas.
  • Raised nearly $20K for COVID-19 relief.
  • Provided a few weeks worth of meals for 68 children and 37 low income families across the country. At our current pace we expect to be able to help five times that many!
  • Further invested in our IT infrastructure to operate more efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Got our publishing department off the ground to help spread information about the voluntaryist philosophy as well as sharing what our small team has been able to accomplish. Check out our latest articles and share them with your friends!
  • Assistant Director Justin Glassman and Publishing Manager Jeff Perry represented VIA on our very first podcast! You can listen to the episode featuring VIA here.

Heading into April, we will continue to disperse COVID-19 relief as quickly as we can. You can help us by sharing this relief form with your communities: https://viaction.org/covid19-relief

As time allows, we hope to appear on podcasts more often to help spread our reach even further so that we can help even more people. None of this would be possible without our donors—thank you so much for helping us help so many people! Together we can prove to the world that voluntaryism is the better way.

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Private Entities are Combating Government Enforced Boredom

The government’s belated response to the coronavirus has been to force everyone they can to stay indoors—sometimes at gunpoint. In addition to the economic impact, many people are getting a serious case of cabin fever. People stuck at home need something to do before they start weaving baskets. But as usual, voluntary efforts take over when the state fails, and private entities are combating government enforced boredom. There are too many people helping to count, but here is a quick rundown of some highlights of the efforts being made.

In addition to donating millions of dollars to medical coronavirus relief efforts, Amazon has made much of its family-friendly movies and TV shows available for free, including classics like Arthur and Reading Rainbow. They have also altered their Audible audiobook streaming service to make hundreds of titles in multiple languages available to listeners for free—even such apropos titles as “Brave New World” and “Atlas Shrugged.”

Amazon is far from the only player in the digital media industry. Not to be outdone, Apple has added a limited-time “Free Books” section to its Apple Books app. Nonprofits are not being left behind. The non-profit online library Internet Archive has created a National Emergency Library where books can be read without the main site’s lending restrictions.

Pokemon Go is a game beloved by millions across the world. Unfortunately one of the main mechanisms in the game is walking around outside—a great form of exercise that, in some areas, the government will arrest you for nowadays. But the creator of Pokemon Go have altered the game’s mechanics temporarily to make it possible to catch Pokemon easily from your home and making it easier to interact with other players—even giving away free in-game items.

Private Coronavirus Relief is Better than Government
"We are committed to the safety and well-being of our community," the development team of PokemonGo said.

Individual creatives are also acting to meet the mental and emotional needs of people imprisoned in their own homes by the government. Award-winning children’s artist Mo Willems is holding virtual “lunch doodle” sessions from his home. Using the hashtag #OperationStoryTime, authors of children’s books are using social media to provide free readings of their books for families. You can even find Julie Borowski reading her modern classic “Nobody Knows How To Make A Pizza,” and Connor Boyack reading “The Creature from Jekyll Island” from his Tuttle Twins series.

Neither are the finer aspects of entertainment being left out. World-renowned actor Sir Patrick Stewart is tweeting out daily readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets. “When I was a child in the 1940s, my mother would cut up slices of fruit for me (there wasn’t much)”, Stewart said, “and as she put it in front of me she would say, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ How about, ‘A sonnet a day keeps the doctor away’?”

The Metropolitan Opera was forced to cancel its live presentations, but is re-airing its Live in HD series for free.  “We’d like to provide some grand opera solace to opera lovers in these extraordinarily difficult times,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb. “Every night, we’ll be offering a different complete operatic gem from our collection of HD presentations from the past 14 years.”

Headlines all over the world have focused on the medical impacts of the coronavirus, and the financial impact of the government’s actions. Often overlooked has been the emotional an psychological impacts on individuals and families. But as we can see, private entities are combating government enforced boredom, demonstrating again that people will voluntarily help each other—and that help is always better than what the government offers.

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Private Practitioners in Hong Kong Volunteer Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

As the threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) worsens, healthcare workers in China have struggled to keep up with the amount of patients who are in need of treatment. This is in part due to the influx of cases and their own workers being impacted by COVID-19. According to recent numbers, the confirmed cases of the virus are reaching beyond 76,000 with the majority of those cases in China.

Over 1,700 healthcare workers have now contracted the virus, adding to the strain on essential manpower. As this crisis continues it’s outspreading impact on the country, a union named the “Association of Private Medical Specialists of Hong Kong” has offered help by sending 135 of their private practitioners to assist at public hospitals.

Mak Kam-fai, chairman of the Hong Kong Disciplined Services Volunteer Corps, has said about 300 people from across departments have offered to help in the coronavirus fight. Photo: Edward Wong

Not only are doctors offering their aid during the outbreak, but 300 officers from disciplined services have also volunteered their own manpower by setting up areas for quarantine and gathering general patient information. At the quarantine sites, surgical masks and other supplies are given to those in need of them. “Some of our officers have qualifications, such as in nursing, and can offer medical help. We can also help check people’s body temperatures in heavy passenger flow areas, such as control points or main MTR stations,” says Mak, a retired officer within the fire services.

This comes at a time when medical practitioners are going on strike amongst the difficult and dangerous conditions surrounding their work place environment. Still, volunteers have persisted and are introduced to safety protocols first thing, including the process of putting on and removing their protective gear.

Current and retired members of Hong Kong’s disciplined services have volunteered to help amid the outbreak. Some may be used to do temperature checks. Photo: Winson Wong

Most of the volunteers feel that it is their duty to offer their knowledge and services during a crisis of this magnitude. Cheng Yuk-leung, a retired corrections officer with a nursing background, took his position firmly: “It’s a sense of responsibility for our society. As an enrolled nurse, I can offer more medical assistance, especially in the quarantine sites.”

The fact that the picket lines in the hospital have been crossed by brave volunteers willing to risk their own health amid the growing coronavirus outbreak—not to mention the tens of millions of donated dollars—is an inspiring example of what people are willing to do for their fellow man in times of crisis, no coercion required.

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