Victoria residents are finding new ways to build community amid social distancing and isolation protocols implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Tuesday, B.C. has reached 186 cases of the global coronavirus, including seven deaths. Around the province and country, community centres, restaurants, businesses and schools are partially or fully closed as the public heeds government recommendations to eliminate gatherings and self-isolate.
And while many Victorians are working from home and choosing to stay away from public spaces, a new type of community is forming in the face of global uncertainty.
A Facebook group called COVID-19 Coming Together has nearly 5,500 members and includes dozens of requests and offers for help – everything from a coffee maker, diaper cream and financial advice to vet bills, grocery deliveries and virtual guided meditations.
Joni Oldhoff is in self-isolation with her four-year-old son, who has respiratory issues that could increase his risk of serious illness. After her coffee maker broke, Oldhoff posted to see if anyone had an extra, joking that it would be difficult to get through isolation without it.
She can’t believe how many people reached out, not just to offer coffee, but all sorts of help.
“I’ve had offers for coffee makers and espresso machines,” she said. “There are so many offers, it’s been so, so heartwarming to witness.”
A neighbour dropped off gardening supplies so she and her son could do some gardening on the balcony, and a French press is being dropped off at her Esquimalt home this week.
“It’s scary but at the same time, I am feeling really positive,” Oldhoff said. “I feel like a lot of this is giving everyone an opportunity to stop and slow down in their lives and focus on what matters. It’s really showing us the strength of community.”
Helen McCall, who owns a Victoria-based commercial cleaning business, said community is everything, especially in times of crisis.
She doesn’t have endless supplies, but McCall is bringing hospital-grade disinfectant concentrate to the most vulnerable members of the community.
“Some of the people who need it the most can’t get here,” she said. “The people who need it the most are the people who are self-isolating. As of now, I’m perfectly healthy, I have a car and I’m happy to help.”
Camosun College student Raven Fawkes has been using her time away from school (Camosun moved to online courses last week) to help fill a need for clothing donations.
After seeing that Our Place Society had a critical need for clothing donations, Fawkes started collecting, but once the pandemic became more critical, she decided to post in the COVID-19 Facebook group too.
“I’ve got a little more space in my life to help out right now,” she said. “And maybe there’s a little bit of momentum with this, where the community is realizing that we really need to reach out and connect and I think it’s a good time to use that momentum.”
Victoria meditation teacher Morgana Braveraven was surprised by the response she received when she asked if anyone was interested in free, virtual guided meditation.
“COVID-19 has caused us all a lot of fear and anxiety,” she said in a Facebook message. “We have never experienced such a thing as this and we need tools to get through this crisis as healthy and calm as we can.
“We are not alone in this crisis – we are in it as a community, and as a community member who has a skill and tool that can help, I am happy to offer it to whom so ever may need it.”
Braveraven’s online classes can be accessed through her studio’s Facebook page Laughing Buddha Studio.