In times of crisis, we often don’t hear about the many quiet, compassionate responses made in those moments.
Quietly in South Florida, a woman started an online grassroots effort originally meant to make a modest impact in her community. Now, it has raised millions of dollars for hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
Local mindfulness teacher Shelly Tygielski launched her Pandemic of Love in Fort Lauderdale after seeing people around her losing their jobs. Worried not just about money, but also their health amidst the COVID-19 crisis, her social media feeds grew abuzz with fear and anxiety—and Shelly sensed an opportunity in the difficulty.
“I wanted to turn from this environment of fear to an opportunity for us to create connection, community and strengthen the bonds of love between us,” Shelly told CNN.
It all started out very simply, when Shelly posted a video on her Instagram on March 14. She announced a new program aimed at connecting those with a need due to loss of income with those who are in a position of privilege and able to be of service. When she went to bed that night, she wasn’t sure how much good her efforts would do. By morning, she had received 400 requests for assistance and 500 offers of help.
“I really just thought this would be a community thing for the South Florida community, for the people who come to our meditation group on Sundays, and that’s it—and that would’ve been enough,” Shelly told her WTVJ News.
People in all corners of the world inspired by Shelly’s compassion soon set up similar online exchanges in their own communities under her Love Pandemic banner. In addition to the many groups that sprang up around the U.S., people have been using the Pandemic of Love website to offer assistance in 16 countries so far, including Mexico, Iceland, Chile, and Australia.
Shelly says that the majority of people seeking help want to stock up on food and supplies for the children, and that the average request is about $150. But while COVID-19 has created a large and visible need, Shelly hopes that the Pandemic of Love project will continue to grow even after the days of coronavirus are over.
Reflecting on what the project has meant to her, Shelly said: “On a personal level, it shows me that a person can make a difference when you aggregate this act of kindness. You know viruses can be scary things, but the word ‘viral’ does not have to be negative. A lot of positive things can go viral like hope and faith and love. And love can be the cure.”
As of June 4, the platform had raised more than $13 million and has connected 132,000 people with the help they need. If you or someone you know is in need of support, or if you are in a position to give and would like to do so, visit the Pandemic of Love website to learn more. A Spanish language website is also available.