Graduate Students Find Small Ways to Help

Helping others in the community during a public health crisis need not always mean large food shipments or cases of water. Pitt School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences doctoral student Mariah Callas (pictured) has found that smaller gestures can go a long way. She and her roommate and fellow doctoral student Kayley Renz have been writing letters to elderly people in personal care homes, and dropping hand-written notes in older neighbors’ mailboxes, offering to buy groceries. They baked a four-layer “isolation cake” and dropped slices off on the doorsteps of other physical therapy students.

And then there are the bugs. Callas purchased live caterpillars and praying mantises online and is taking photos of them daily, sending them to a friend who is a nanny, who in turn shares them with the child she cares for.

“We are watching them grow together,” said Callas. "After they cocoon and become butterflies, I plan on posting and sharing their journey for even more people to enjoy!” 

The two are helping coordinate online exercise classes and Callas has joined an online group of people seeking to learn sign language. “It could help me better serve my patients in the future,” she said.

“It feels easy to want to hide away and focus on what is directly in front of us as individuals,” she added. “Shifting my focus and supporting those around me really gives me my sense of purpose back, even from my couch. And seeing people’s reactions just brings so much light to a time that could feel very dark and lonely.”