By Andrew Parker, founder and CEO, Papa
The last two years have been isolating—but if we’re being honest, our society started drifting apart even before the pandemic. When was the last time you saw families gathering on neighborhood streets or strangers striking up friendly conversation on an elevator?
These may seem like tiny blips in the grand scheme of life, but the truth is as our society grows further and further apart, people grow less and less healthy.
And sadly, the downhill trend is getting worse.
From 2020 to 2022, Papa’s researchers noted a 64% increase in individuals who reported severe loneliness during initial assessments. While this could have been expected in light of the pandemic, the impact has been far-reaching and widespread.
Social isolation and loneliness, along with other social drivers of health, impact upward of 80% of health outcomes. In fact, a recent study showed that loneliness increases mortality by 26%—a shocking stat that illustrates the importance of human-to-human connection.
We need each other. It’s that simple.
Introducing “Be a Pal” Week
With that knowledge at Papa’s core, we’re excited to introduce Be a Pal Week, to be held October 10-16, 2022—an annual week of engagement aimed at helping us fulfill our vision of a world where no one has to go it alone. This week isn’t just for Papa Pals, employees, or members. This week is for everyone. Because we can only create a more connected society together.
During Be a Pal Week, we’ll outwardly express our company’s “Be a Pal” core value in a variety of ways, each aimed at building a more connected world…for all.
Our challenge is for everyone to do one thing that brings us closer together or helps someone.
At Papa, we’re giving our employees a day of paid time off to volunteer with a relevant community organization. And we’ve developed a Pal Pack filled with ideas, tools, and activities to help our Papa Pals, and everyday pals, build and nurture connections. Y ahora también disponible en Español.
Maybe you invite a lonely neighbor to go on a walk.
Or grab coffee with an old (or new) friend who’s been going through a tough time.
Perhaps you give unexpected flowers to brighten someone’s day or send a funny text message to someone you haven’t connected with in a few years.
Maybe it’s as simple as a friendly hello or a meaningful thank you.
An unexpected invitation.
A phone call.
Each of these things may seem small on the surface, but a million tiny things add up to one big thing: changing the fabric of our community to be more connected and healthier.
Health happens in communities
Again and again, research has shown that health happens in communities.
In recent years, the power of community has become even more evident. In one study, researchers discovered why COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates were high in some geographical areas and much lower in others. Communities with higher levels of social capital—essentially, communities where people have close, trusting, mutually beneficial relationships—had much lower death and hospitalization rates.
A second study had similar results. It found communities where people had strong social ties among family, friends, even elected officials and decision-makers, had fewer excess deaths during the pandemic.
Papa’s vision for a connected world
At Papa, our vision is to create a world where no one has to go it alone. It’s something we’ve been working toward since our founding in 2017, just about five years ago.
We believe no one is meant to go it alone because we, as human beings, are not supposed to. Connected is how we come into this world, and we believe it’s how we’re meant to live in it, too.
In a way, we’ve done it. Currently, we impact 1,500 people each day. That’s 1,500 people who benefit from human-to-human connection, 1,500 people who feel less lonely, and 1,500 people who get the social support they need to be healthy.
That’s people like Lacey, whose Papa Pal advocates for her and her family at the food bank. People like Ronald, who finds comfort in sharing his art and experiences in the Vietnam War with his Papa Pals. And people like Felicia, a former Papa member who broke a cycle of unemployment and poverty by becoming a Papa Pal herself and finding meaning in caring for others. The impact on our members has been life-changing. But we want to go bigger—and we want you all to join us.
While on the road during Be a Pal Week, I’ll pack in simple, yet meaningful gestures wherever I can. I’ll say “good morning” to my airplane seatmate, pay for coffee for the person behind me in line, or make a phone call to an old friend. And when I’m back in Miami, I look forward to volunteering in my local community.
How can you join us?
Be a Pal Week will only elevate social health and improve loneliness if we all contribute. The more people, the better the outcomes. And as we flex these social muscles, we’ll only get better at it.
Join us and share your efforts with us on social media using the hashtag #BeAPal.
We can do this… together.
Our Call to “Be a Pal”… Now and Beyond
Join us for Be a Pal Week on October 10-16 and help us create a more connected society together.
Creating Healthy Connections: Papa’s Community Standards
Papa’s community standards include kindness, integrity and safety for each of our employees, members and Papa Pals.