“No one in my immediate household is classed as vulnerable, but my Mum was the first person I knew of who had symptoms. She has struggled with her breathing before and has a previous heart condition. She contracted COVID-19 and pneumonia and went to hospital with it. She’s recovered really well, and I’m now really grateful I know she’s had it and is out the other side. But it scared me at the time.
I feel two things that I can’t quite reconcile. The first is a sense of dread about the short and long-term impact of the virus: the awful knowledge that our society is not just, so those who already shoulder heavy burdens are likely to suffer the most. The second is a sense of hope that this profound disruption could catalyse a more just society. I swing back and forth on whether I land in a place of hopefulness from one moment to another.
I’m a researcher and much of my work can be done from home. Every Friday I’m now surveying youth workers with three quick questions to try to capture what Covid-19 means for their work.
I’ve been supporting the local school, helping to set up local mutual aid groups and will be doing some food deliveries over the Easter holidays. I used to volunteer with women involved in prostitution and have offered to return to the drop-in when needed. The women are highly vulnerable to coronavirus, many have pre-existing respiratory problems, housing needs and are trapped in abuse.
I’m part of a church and on the first Sunday we couldn’t meet we delivered a candle to each home, and bread for communion. We are currently meeting online on a weekly Zoom call but we start with lighting our candles as a sign of being together. We have online prayer weekday evenings at 10pm that anyone can join, and households are just trying to be creative and look out for each other and their neighbours. There are lots of doorstep deliveries happening, and we are all going to contribute to singing a recorded song together for Easter Sunday because live singing sounds so awful on a video chat!
It feels like everything must have changed for everyone. Educating my daughter at home has been new. Working from home has been new. Not being able to visit friends or go out. Having to make decisions about furloughing staff in our organisation. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, the sense of being constantly on edge: of going through something as a whole nation while also knowing it affects people completely differently. It has felt somewhere between a dream and a film. Sometimes time feels like it’s going incredibly slowly and other times like the pace of developments is dizzying.
I have experienced greater community and mutual care than ever before I think. We set up WhatsApp groups for all the local roads around the primary school, and lots of new connections are emerging through that. One neighbour has been delivering fudge to the street, another made up a craft-box for my daughter. Around the corner they have started a weekly printed newsletter for their road, and you can hear the clapping for the NHS for miles. You can see people’s generosity online as well. So many offers of support on various websites. A new sense of community has emerged amongst parents of our local school since we set up a Facebook group. I think we’ll all look at each other differently when the school reopens.
I’m also getting to spend some really good time with my daughter. It’s not easy but it’s an incredible opportunity. I’m actually really pleased I get the chance to think about her education, which we otherwise outsource to schools. I am learning a huge amount by being exposed to her curious mind all day.
I’m also aware of the positive impact the lockdown is having environmentally, even if we didn’t choose this or plan this. There are adaptations we are making now that we should keep if we want to live more sustainably. “
Lucie Shuker, Researcher