How Nova Scotians are helping each other through COVID-19
'It's been quite amazing to hear the support and offers being given by neighbours,' says Tina Oh
Some Nova Scotians are harnessing the power of social media and community spirit to help each other through the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Amber Tucker is the creator of Caremongering-HFX, a Facebook group where members can ask for help, donate supplies and services or offer advice on where to find highly sought-after items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
"It's a group that's really dedicated to a spirit of mutual aid to kind of help people in the community to come together and help meet each other's needs in a safe way," said Tucker, 28. "And provide a place of solidarity where we can all know that we're in this together."
The group is modelled after similar groups in Ontario were created to address people's needs as more confirmed cases of COVID-19 were announced.
On Sunday, a member in the Halifax group made a post saying they had a mostly-full box of disposable gloves up for grabs. Someone responded by asking how much they were selling them for. The original poster responded: "Free!"
That's the kind of exchange Tucker wants to see.
"We're definitely not looking for people to resell supplies," she said. "We want this to be a group where people are offering things out of the spirit of community."
A similar group was created in the Kentville and Wolfville area.
'Spirit of giving'
The Halifax group caught on quickly, amassing more than 6,000 members since Tucker created it on Friday.
"I've been pretty much glued to my computer," she said.
The group can't provide medical advice, and Tucker said they're not supporting things like the delivery of home-prepared food, which can be risky in the time of a pandemic.
Tucker said she hopes to see the group outlive the coronavirus.
"I really hope that the group will continue just as a community care group in general, because there are always people and communities who can use the spirit of giving and deep care for each other," she said.
"It's so beautiful to see that happening now, and I really hope that we will keep that going — COVID or no COVID."
Helping the most vulnerable
Some are taking an even more community-based approach to helping their neighbours.
Tina Oh recently made about five dozen cards and distributed them around her north-end Halifax neighborhood, asking people to get in contact with her if they require non-emergency help or have the capacity to help others.
"Such as grocery pickups or supply deliveries, people who need their dogs walked, their children looked after, things like that," said Oh, 23.
After distributing the cards and posting a picture of the card's text online, Oh has been in touch with dozens of people who want to help out in any way they can.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Halifax?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Halifax</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YHZ?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YHZ</a>, remember Hurricane Dorian & the impacts it had on the poor, disabled & elderly? More disasters & crises, such as <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/covid_19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#covid_19</a> are looming & we need to collectively prepare<br><br>It doesn’t take much to reach out to ur neighbours. Organize ur neighbourhood! DM for template. <a href="https://t.co/UcSi3rlTdL">pic.twitter.com/UcSi3rlTdL</a>—@tinayoh
Nobody has asked for help yet, but Oh expects that to change in the coming weeks as more confirmed cases are announced. She said she will facilitate help for those who ask for it through the network of people she built.
"It's been quite amazing to hear the support and offers being given by neighbours," she said.
Oh, who has a background in environmentalism and migrant justice, said she wants to focus on helping immunocompromised people, elderly people, single parents, disabled people, low-wage workers and undocumented people who may not be able to freely access the services they need.
She said she was inspired by the events of post-tropical storm Dorian and hearing the stories of people who struggled to recover in the aftermath.
One that stuck with her was about a family who lost $500 worth of groceries when they lost power and the food spoiled.
"How can we look at these crises through the lens of the most vulnerable in our communities, and what are those unique impacts that we can mitigate as a community are the things that I'm thinking about," she said.
In a time of panic buying and toilet paper hoarding, Oh believes the community response she's received comes from a sense of compassion in a moment of crisis.
"This type of care for one another needs to kind of outshine the negative aspects of scarcity that we're seeing," she said.
Oh said while she's keeping her efforts mostly to her own neighborhood, she hopes to see others organizing similar things in their own communities.
"I'm kind of hoping it's just this wave of seeing something happen, and then finding out their capacities and ways to help," she said.
Free transit service in Halifax starting Wednesday
On Tuesday, Halifax Transit announced it would suspend all fare collection on bus and ferry services on Wednesday. The decision was made by the municipality as a way to commit to social distancing.
Passengers will be asked to use the rear doors for boarding and exiting. The front door will continue to be used for passengers who need to use the ramp.
Regular ferry boarding service won't change.
The municipality noted ridership is down more than 43 per cent on conventional bus service, 51 per cent on ferry service and 67 per cent on its Access-A-Bus service.
With files from Maritime Noon