Virtual Companions

My name is Gaby Li and I am a Stanford University student studying human-centered and cross-cultural approaches to community health. I am the founder and director of Virtual Companions , a national nonprofit working to foster acts of kindness and meaningful companionships between generations through conversation and the arts. We are a virtual intergenerational community aiming to reduce loneliness and provide community to the people who stand to benefit the most through our 4 programs: Phone-Call, PenPal, Cards & Crafts, and Virtual Concerts.

This is my story: 

Just weeks before the intensifying COVID-19 pandemic forced most undergraduates to vacate campus, I sat in my dorm room playing “Amazing Grace” on the cello into my phone speaker. On the other end of the line sat my grandmother, miles away in Virginia, who, although unable to open her eyes, was listening and smiling. 

Soon after this phone call, Grandma passed away--my last moments with her, remote. 

Grandma was a tough, no-nonsense woman who escaped from North Korea during the war, raised 4 children as a single mother, and then immigrated to the US without knowing how to speak English. She was a wise mentor, a selfless warrior, and a compassionate community-member who used to make these beautiful paper-swans and hanbok figurines to share with everyone in the community. 

While my family was lucky enough to hold a funeral before funeral homes and stores began closing, I began to worry about how the older adults at my grandma’s previous residence were doing, as well as my friends at the nursing homes I used to frequent in high school. After calling various residences, I learned quickly of the new safety protocols restricting visitors and family members, as well as the increasing concerns of loneliness due to limited social interaction. 

In honor of my grandma and her love of the arts, and because I miss her presence immensely, I am striving to forge a way for me, other youth, and older adults to connect virtually over conversations and the arts. In this current pandemic, there is a need now, more than ever, for creative, accessible solutions that leverage technology and the arts to facilitate meaningful connections between generations. 

Learn more about Virtual Companions and join our intergenerational community here: 

What we need funding for: 

- Reimbursements to our participants (postage, letter and craft-making supplies, etc.)

- Supply kits for our gen2gen craft-making workshops and virtual concert events               
             - Every $10 raised means one more person can participate free of cost.  

- Bringing technology to under-resourced older adult communities.
Many seniors living in nursing homes and assisted living residences have      expressed interest in the virtual concerts program and workshops, but don’t have the technology to participate in them. We hope to provide the technology and tech support to overcome this barrier. Furthermore, clinical research has repeatedly shown how music can provide emotional and behavioral benefits to those with dementia and similar conditions. 
              - Every $200 raised means we can donate an ipad or laptop to a nursing home for residents to participate in our virtual concerts, join craft-making workshops, and make video calls to family, friends, and other Virtual Companions 

- Purchasing a P.O. box for participants to send their cards & crafts to a central location ($118)

- Maintaining our online platform to register participants and streamline the matching process ($700/year)

- Filing for 501(c)(3) status (about $600)
This allows all our funding to be exempt from taxes. With this status, we can receive grants and donations from places we are currently ineligible to apply to.  

- Any additional funds we raise will go towards our marketing and outreach efforts

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. We greatly appreciate every donation. 

And special thanks to the rest of the VC team, our partners, and supporters!

This campaign is part of the 2020 Clinton Global Initiative University COVID-19 Student Crowdfunding Challenge.


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Gabrielle Li 
Stanford, CA
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