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Caremongering is catchy

Connection among family and friends is critical during difficult times. Take a walk, or take a photo, but engage with others however possible. PHOTO courtesy of Neil Zeller

There’s a new word for these new times, to go along with social distancing. It’s caremongering—a term being used on social media to identify groups of people banding together to offer help and resources to anyone in need during the Covid-19 pandemic. In Calgary and Edmonton, Facebook groups YEG Community Response and YYC Covid-19 Volunteers continue to attract posts offering help from young and old to the vulnerable, isolated and lonely.   

Here's an example. Two Canadians, Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman, started Choir! Choir! Choir! a singing drop-in to help combat isolation caused by social distancing measures. Readers can follow their Facebook page. to see about an upcoming live sing-along.

At Angel’s Café in Calgary, owner Cathy Jacobs and staff used up the last delivery of supplies to make freezable meals for anyone in need, before the café was shut down due to the Covid emergency. “I’d rather give the food away than to see it go bad. Angels helping angels,” she wrote on Facebook. Since that initital week, Jacobs has continued the effort, turning the Café into a hamper preparation hub for those in isolation who can’t get out to gather essential foods. 

In Calgary and Edmonton, local photographers are bringing their skills to neighbourhoods for porch photos, a way to document these isolating times and connect with fellow residents. Even with a small fee or request for donation, the projects are resonating with Albertans because of their 'we're all in this together' spirit. "A porch photo can be a moment of joy in what is a worrisome time for many," said Calgary photographer Neil Zeller.

There's a common thread to all these examples of caremongering--connection. When we don't know what to do, or feel helpless against an often scary, unknown force, human connection is our way to cope: to try to thrive and not just survive. With a global pandemic that has thrown us all off our normal, everyday routines and presents daily challenges to individuals, businesses and governments, staying connected is crucial. Even if we're housebound or physically isolating, humans need to stay socially connected. Whether through online courses, bingeing a favourite tv series with a partner on Netflix, or having Facetime and Skype visits with family, creating those touch points in your day can make all the difference.

Sage Seniors Association in Edmonton, which serves some 6,000 individuals each year through programs and services, has implemented a friendly call program. Even though the physical building is shuttered for now, anyone can phone in and sign up to receive an occasional phone call.  “Especially for those without family or a caregiver, something simple like a call to connect is very important,” said SAGE executive director Karen McDonald. 

Front line workers--heroes without a doubt--are offering the medical and physical care that is critical during this crisis, but these people also need care and connection. Retired doctors and nurses and students in medicine and nursing have answered the call for help, giving needed respite to exhausted workers. To do their part, the 8,000-member Canadian Federation of Medical Students — which includes students at the University of Alberta — has been doing everything from babysitting children of health-care workers to manning the phones at 811 call centres.

Feeling like you’re doing something in a situation where there’s little to be done but ‘wash your hands’ and practice social distancing is difficult for most. Wanting to contribute is likely the impetus behind the wave of distillers across the country getting into the hand-sanitizer trade. Whether offered for free to hospitals and local businesses, or for a small charge or donation by individuals, it’s not hard to see why alcohol producers are trying to do their part to help during the emergency. In Calgary, the Annex Ale Project is seeing the local brewery work with other distilleries to produce hand sanitizer to shore up critically low stocks across the city. The company is even donating some of the stock to the food bank, homeless shelters and other charities in need.

Within days of the Calgary brewery’s announcement, an avalanche of others around Alberta followed suit: Two Rivers Distillery, Eau Claire Distillery, Hanson Distillery and Strathcona Spirits (in Edmonton) among many others. Even national giant Labatt’s Brewery is joining the hand sanitizer party, all helping fill a need where they see one. 

Even turning on the radio can be of solace when care is needed, with music able to soothe the soul like nothing else. To respond in this anxious time, CKUA has created a calendar of live performance web streams:

If you're able to get outside and take a walk, you'll see signs of connection in people's windows or scrawled in sidewalk chalk in neighbourhoods everywhere. Messages like 'stay strong' and 'we'll get through this' are hopeful and comforting, even amongst strangers. Reading signs of encouragement drives home that message that we're all connected--each neighbourhood, each city, each country--all across the world. That's my message too: stay optimistic, stay connected, find something to smile or laugh about each day, and know that we'll all get through this together.