A support initiative delivering food and medicine to elderly and vulnerable users is discussing verification methods to ensure trust between users and volunteers.

Invisible Hands Malta said it wanted to roll out volunteer reviews, ID card vetting and mobile phone SMS messaging in order to verify the identities of volunteers and protect elderly and vulnerable users from being robbed.

The organiser, Daniel Goebel, said such measures were being taken in response to news reports last week involving an individual posing as healthcare worker, entering an elderly person’s home and stealing jewellery. A 45-year-old woman from Marsascala pleaded not guilty to charges of barging into a 79-year-old woman’s home in Msida and stealing jewellery items.

“We’re looking into ways in which we can review and vet our volunteers as well as checking and verifying their ID cards. We’re also discussing verification code-words that only the users and the volunteers will share.

“That should reassure the person at home that the individual outside their door is the one who should be there,” Goebel said.

The initiative has been running for almost two weeks and has so far made 30 deliveries of food or medicine primarily to foreign expats and individuals unable to leave their homes during quarantine. Five of the deliveries were made to elderly users.

Goebel, a German software engineer, explained that the initiative’s website was intended to be fully automated, allowing users to contact the organisers by e-mail so they would then be called back and referred to one of the over 200 volunteers offering their help.

“The website allows us to coordinate the help requests into a centralised database. Users provide us with their contact details and requests. We then match them with a volunteer.

“This is not a physical NGO so we don’t have their complexities or the stresses of having one person coordinating and eventually being overwhelmed. This is just private people helping other private people. It’s civic sense,” he continued.

The German expat added that, apart from improving trust, the initiative was also trying to build a name among the elderly through a leafleting campaign.

He said the target audience were not necessarily tech literate or more hesitant to ask for help.

“We have a Facebook marketing campaign but we’re struggling to reach the elderly. With a leaflet, they can take the number and call us and hear from someone who does speak Maltese or English.

“It’s a very conservative method of communication but we’ll see how it works out.

“We would be putting these [leaflets] up in grocery stores and pharmacies,” Goebel said.

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