Stories without borders

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Gimme some (virtual) lovin’

We all need a hug from time to time. But during the outbreak of COVID-19, being there for our loved ones took the shape of birthday parties on Zoom, virtual cooking sessions with mum and Skype calls with granddad’s nostrils.

For many people in residential care homes and hospitals, loneliness and isolation are daily visitors in our fast-paced and digital society. And while lots of us came up with creative ways to stay in touch during lockdown, things became even more challenging for older people, patients in hospitals and residents in care centres.

With this in mind, we created the ‘Virtual Hugs’ initiative together with social enterprise Close the Gap (partner of the Deloitte Foundation) and the VUB (University of Brussels). It was all about collecting, refurbishing and distributing tablets and smartphones to care institutions all over Belgium to allow their residents or patients to stay in touch with family and friends who could not visit while restrictions where in place.

"Your support gives us great pleasure, helps us fight the coronavirus and gives extra warmth to our staff and doctors who give the best of themselves day in and day out in these difficult times."

GZA Ziekenhuizen

How does it work, you ask? We developed an online platform so businesses or individuals can register used tablets and smartphones or make a financial donation for the purchase of new equipment. Close the Gap then disinfects and configures the donated devices, and the VUB provides a guide for users. Once all is set, the devices are sent as gifts to those that seek a virtual hug in these unprecedented times.

So far, we've delivered 3,559 devices to more than 500 hospitals, residential care homes, and centres for people with disabilities across Belgium. A rough estimate shows that we've helped around 68,000 people to stay connected with their loved ones – and we're grateful to have played a part.

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Gimme some (virtual) lovin’

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