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What is 'caremongering' and how can it help during the coronavirus outbreak?

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Under guidance from governments and health organizations across the world, whole communities — and even countries — are hunkering down to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. For many, that means stocking up on food, toiletries and other necessary supplies. But for others, who might be elderly or physically unable to do so, such necessities may be harder to come by.

That’s where “caremongering” comes in.

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The term — coined by Canadians on social media, but not a concept exclusive to Canada — describes the practice of offering help or care to those that need it most. And it isn’t just limited to delivering supplies or food; caremongering can mean running errands, or setting up online exercise classes, or cooking and doing chores for others.

In fact, caremongering — whether it’s called that or not — has already taken off on many social media platforms, with neighbors or community members offering to be of service in any way they can. One woman, Becky Wass, even made headlines a few days back with a “#viralkindness card she distributed among her elderly neighbors.

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Valentina Harper, a Toronto resident who was one of the first people to set up a “caremongering” Facebook group (along with friend Mita Hans), explained her reasoning to the BBC.

"Scaremongering is a big problem," Harper told the BBC. "We wanted to switch that around and get people to connect on a positive level, to connect with each other.

"It's spread the opposite of panic in people, brought out community and camaraderie, and allowed us to tackle the needs of those who are at-risk all the time — now more than ever."

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Harper’s group, and many others, utilize a similar system for sharing information, requests and offers, with users tagging posts with #iso (people “in search of” something) and #offer (those putting out offers to help). Other posts are tagged with #news, #discussion, #need or #suggestion, depending on the nature of the posting.

Many other “caremongering” groups across Canada appeared to work the same way, with supporters offering everything from free coffee to books.

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"Anxiety, isolation and lack of hope affects you. In providing this virtual community, which allows people to help each other, I think it is really showing people there is still hope for humanity. We haven't lost our hope,” Harper told the BBC.