I stopped and turned around while the stranger, who has Down syndrome, sped up to join me. Let’s call her Jennifer. She piped that no one ever stops to talk to her. We walked together for about 20 minutes, discussing our favorite movies, then how much we each pay for medications. Once we arrived at a bus stop, she raised her pharmacy bag with one hand: “Do you have any bus money?” I handed her change from my pocket. Before getting on the bus, she thanked me for talking to her and again said no one ever had before.
The amount of change I had to give Jennifer was small, but to her, it was meaningful. And it felt good to help someone who was both neighbor and stranger. I began wondering how I could help her with medical expenses. Foolishly, it wasn’t until the bus had left my view that I realized I hadn’t gotten her contact info.
The Loneliness Epidemic
I wonder if Jennifer has considered crowdfunding for her medical expenses. But then I remember how alone she felt and realize she might not have the social traction necessary for typical crowdfunding methods. Crowdfunding ordinarily depends on your reach; who sees your campaigns on social media or who you meet in person. It’s as if only popular people are worthy of being financially supported. Isn’t that awful?
Jennifer isn’t alone in feeling alone. Our world is more connected than ever before thanks to the internet, and yet many of us feel so isolated. We are in the midst of a “loneliness epidemic,” and it’s a public health problem. According to a 2015 study, those who are lonely have a 26% higher risk of dying.
A recent survey conducted by The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation found 22% of American adults feel lonely, while it’s 9% in Japan and 23% in Britain.
Gone are the days of knocking on friends’ doors to hang out, of knowing neighbors well enough to hold a conversation beyond small talk at the mailbox, of knocking on doors to fundraise. Gone are the days that we could count on our neighbors to help us. Or are they?
Community Crowdfunding, Evolved
We at Sixpence consider it our civil responsibility to treat the loneliness epidemic. When imagining our app, we brainstormed how to help those who don’t have a social network for financial support. Plus, considering how divided society now is due to politics and social media addictions, we want to foster tighter communities. Because we care.
Eventually, we came up with the Community Map, which displays ongoing crowdfunding campaigns in your area.
Simply click on turquoise pins to bring up info about personal campaigns, or orange pins to learn about nonprofits who are crowdfunding nearby. If something catches your eye, click “Support” and go about your day knowing each card purchase in the U.S. rounds up to the nearest dollar to support people in If something catches your eye, click “Support” and go about your day knowing each credit or debit card purchase in the U.S. rounds up to the nearest dollar. The “spare change” can support people in your community. It’s community crowdfunding, made simple.
Let’s Create Community
You’ve helped your friends, your family, and those with viral fundraisers. Now, help your neighbors. Help your cancer-fighting neighbor afford their medical treatment or your neighbor whose band needs new drums or your single-mother neighbor who needs childcare.
Help others. Maybe they’ll help you, too, when the time comes.
Is your time of need now? Do you need financial help but don’t know who to turn to? Let Sixpence help you by creating a community crowdfunding campaign of your own. Click here to register.
National campaigns have launched in Australia, Britain, and Denmark to reduce the loneliness public health dilemma. Let’s launch our own campaigns in the United States to make our neighbors feel supported, no matter their existing social network, through community crowdfunding.
Who knows? Maybe with Sixpence, I’ll one day find Jennifer on the Community Map so I can help her with those medical bills. Or at the very least, I could help her collect change for the bus.