[COMMUNITY SERVICE SPOTLIGHT] Families feel university students’ love from virtual calls


Submitted by Ana Beloborodova

Hearts over Hands is an interactive online program for kids in New York to help take stress off busy parents.

SPA Alumnae Diane Huang co-founded Hearts over Hands with her friend, Ana Baloborodova, to support families home during the COVID-19 crisis. The website pairs families with university students who serve in a “big sib” capacity: helping with homework, playing a game, reading a story, or having a conversation.

Q: What led to you starting Hearts over Hands? I understand that it’s in response to COVID-19, but are there more specifics behind deciding to start the organization?
I live in New York City, and the effects of COVID-19 have been felt rapidly and drastically here. As childcare services began shutting down, my heart really went out to parents — I can only imagine how difficult it is to take care of kids 24/7 with so little outside help while juggling work and the intense levels of stress that this virus is causing. I was thinking particularly about parents who were being directly impacted by COVID-19, like parents who were working on the frontlines of the pandemic or already facing health issues. I wanted to find a way to help out, so I created Hearts over Hands. I thought that pairing up college students with kids for online video sessions would be a good way to alleviate some of the pressure these families are under and help keep kids occupied in a safe, productive, and fun way.

Q: When did the process of starting Hearts over Hands begin, and so far, how is everything going?
The whole idea came to me exactly five days ago (March 26) and I started working on it right away without looking back. It’s all progressed very quickly. Once I posted the website to social media, people started reaching out offering to help, signing up to volunteer, and sharing the site with their friends. I’m very grateful for all of the support that people poured out. Now we’ve started pairing volunteers with families and getting the sessions up and running, which is very exciting.

Q: What does it mean to you to be able to aid families in this time of need?
I started Hearts over Hands because I wanted to step up and use my time and resources in a meaningful way. I was thrilled to see that people began signing up and using the service — it was really great to know that I was actually helping someone.

Q: Have you thought about creating something like Hearts over Hands before the COVID-19 outbreak?
No, I never thought about creating anything similar to Hearts over Hands before the COVID-19 outbreak; it was just a response to this particular crisis. In challenging times like these, I think it’s important that people do their part to help others. We really need a sense of community right now.

Q: Is Hearts over Hands limited to the current crisis, or do you plan to continue the organization long past it to continue helping families?
For now, yes, Hearts over Hands is just operating in response to the current crisis. Who knows though, if parents find it useful beyond that, we might keep it around.

UPDATE: this story was updated to provide additional context on the program and the website link.