On Building Trust

Image credit: Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

This week, I have been thinking a lot about trust. How the building of trust is a dance where one person takes a little, tentative step forward, and sometimes the other person responds with a little, tentative step forward. Step by step, this little dance continues until trust stands strong as the foundation of a relationship. This week has been about building trust with providers.

In Dare to Lead, writer and social researcher, Brene Brown, describes the Seven Elements of Trust. The second of those elements that is front and center for me this week is reliability. Reliability means “you do what you say you’ll do.” At VacCorps, we were asked to develop an onboarding process and we did. We were asked to offer volunteer background checks if providers needed them, and we did. We were asked to show up in many ways with our NC communities, and we did. Although it’s a slow process, this dance of trust—based on reliability—is one of my favorite parts of building relationships because it is tender and vulnerable and so often shows you the goodness in people.

The reliable processes we are creating, the conversations we are having, and the relationships we are building this week will soon yield important partnerships for VacCorps and for our volunteers. These partnerships will soon create the opportunities for placing volunteers in positions to support the vaccination efforts in NC so that together, we can control the COVID-19 pandemic faster.

Take care,

Cathrine (Founder and CEO, VacCorps)

It takes a (very big) village

It has been just over two weeks since VacCorps got started and we just reached over 500 volunteers! Thank YOU, amazing volunteer community!! The weeks have been full with receiving volunteers, answering questions, and most importantly, having lots of key conversations.

This week I talked with DeLon Canterbury of the African American COVID Task Force and CEO of GeriatRx. By organizing at the community level, DeLon is working to increase vaccine awareness and access in historically marginalized communities in NC. As a nimble, grass roots-style volunteer organizing platform, VacCorps is uniquely poised to deploy volunteers to help small pharmacies and community centers across NC.

More big conversations occurred with various health officials about how VacCorps can be a complimentary partner to state- and institutional-level staffing. By providing vaccination support staff, healthcare providers’ time and energy can be reserved for getting vaccines into people’s arms. VacCorps volunteers are ready and eager to work as support staff in roles like checking people in, stocking supplies, cleaning surfaces, directing traffic, canvassing, etc.

Last but not least: had several technical conversations with our tech volunteer extraordinaire, Salil Pendse! Salil is responsible for the code that connects volunteers to providers based on zip code, travel radius, roles, languages and availability by weekday. VacCorps is a community effort and I could never do it alone! By-the-way, Salil is really into hiking and backpacking. Here he is hiking in our beloved Umstead Park:

Creating the World We Want

Postcards sent to NC County Health Departments

A week ago, when I started VacCorps, all I had was an idea and a heavy dose of hope: I wanted a way for non-HCPs (healthcare providers), like myself, to help the vaccination efforts, but no such volunteer sign up existed. Although there are a few places to register for healthcare providers like physicians, nurses, etc. (CVMS, TERMS) none of these were accepting workers like me. I have worked in a lab most of my professional life, I’m skilled in aseptic technique and drug/vaccine preparation, I have had HIPAA (medical privacy) training and I’ve worked in a medical office and as a medical interpreter…all transferable skills that could support vaccination providers! Many of my friends and colleagues have similarly transferable skills. Where could we sign up to help? I believe that if you want something to exist in the world, you should create it.

VacCorps is a tool that connects volunteer support staff to vaccine providers. What I realize as I reflect on a very intense week is that VacCorps is so much more than that! Upon going live last Monday, we started off with 9 volunteers signing up. By the second day, over 60 had signed up, and each day the numbers at least doubled (exponential growth!). Today we have over 260 volunteers in our database! Neighbors and friends helped spread the word via social media and the local news, they helped mail postcards to county health departments across NC and they provided emotional support during a very intense week. What I gradually realized is that, in addition to creating a tool to help vaccinators fight COVID-19, VacCorps has created more of what we want to see in the World: a place where people show up for each other as neighbors, as helpers, as workers, as volunteers. A place where people set aside their fear and worry and roll up their sleeves to work together. If anything comes of this endeavor, let it be this: that it is up to each of us to create more of what we want to see in the world. Let’s all do more of that together.

With gratitude,


Getting Started: Approximating an Exponential Solution to COVID-19

Why VacCorps.org?

A few weeks ago I was listening to a news report about the various bottlenecks to COVID-19 vaccine deployment. One of the bottlenecks listed was the staff needed to put shots in people’s arms. I thought to myself, “Well, I have lab experience, aseptic technique experience, why can’t I volunteer to help the vaccination efforts?”. What I realized is that, although there are sites for traditional vaccinators and health care workers (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) to register to work in the vaccination efforts, there wasn’t anywhere for someone like me to register. My math brain kicked in and I thought: “There is no way a linear solution (vaccinating people) can control an exponential problem (COVID-19)! You need to make the linear solution approximate an exponential solution….how do you do that?” In NC there is a huge pool of non-traditional vaccinators (dentists, veterinarians, etc.) and folks trained in laboratory and aseptic technique. Then my friend sent me this link and I realized that in order to run a mass vaccination center in the most exponential way possible, not only were we going to need vaccinators, but all the support staff to help them…and there is no time to hire such a workforce. And so, the VacCorps concept was born: a centralized place where volunteer support staff can sign up and be connected to vaccine providers across the state of NC with the following goals in mind:

  • Staff mass vaccination centers without further taxing health care providers that are currently caring for COVID-19 patients
  • Connect underserved and/or rural communities to pools of volunteer support staff


To be clear: VacCorps is not in any way associated wit Philly Fighting Covid (news story linked above) or any of its affiliates. I linked to this news story as a way to imagine a mass vaccination site run like an assembly line.
Our top value is transparency. VacCorps is completely non profit, and currently funded entirely by me, Cathrine Leonowens (Founder and CEO). We serve the community by connecting volunteers to vaccine providers for free. Our platform is open source (using R and residing on github) and our strategic plan is available publicly on the website. When you “contact us”, you are contacting me directly and I am here to answer all your questions.
I feel sad about the news of Philly Fighting Covid and how they failed their community and I feel dismayed that there are organizations out there that are not transparent and are seeking to profit in unethical ways from the pandemic.