When Community Becomes "Unessential"

By: Paul Born

zorb play

Community gardens were just declared essential in our city. Gardens were opened as a food security measure, noting that many low-income people rely on gardens to save money on food. The next big challenge, and this will be announced in the next few weeks, is how to manage a community garden without community.

I am not yet struggling with physical distancing, well not in the short term, it is necessary. Though I do miss terribly the lunches and dinners with family and friends and going to concerts and movies and ball games. Our book club met virtually for the second time since the COVID lockdown – it was good – well okay. Mostly book club is about community, 7 men who eat a burger and a salad while we talk about our lives and oh yes there is a book to discuss, we do discuss it – but we wander into each other’s lives and we build community amongst us. That did not happen online. Maybe it will – but I am unsure. To clarify our book club name is, “Burgers, Beers, Bro’s and oh Yeah Books”.

What happens when community is declared unessential? Most of us comply. The extreme introverts celebrate. As COVID-19 spreads we know the physical act of community is not good for us, and so for those most vulnerable in society, we give up physical community to overcome a threat to all of us.

I really want us to declare community essential. I want us to invest in community and find new ways of engaging together. Could we spend a little less on saving the economy and a little more on saving ourselves?


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Celebrating in a Time of Crisis

By: Megan Wanless

Celebration in a time of Crisis

How do you celebrate milestones in a time of crisis? How do you gather with those you love when physical distancing is the new norm? Despite the fact we are still early on in the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been heartening to see how quickly families and community members adapt and innovate to keep joy and celebration alive during these uncertain times. In the last two weeks we’ve had the chance to celebrate birthday’s in two different ways.

The first – a Zoom birthday celebration to celebrate my son Levon’s first birthday. Family members from Toronto, Oakville, Ottawa and Australia came together online to sing Happy Birthday over video chat and watch him take his first delectable bites of a cupcake smothered in icing. A hidden gem of the gathering was that I could record the session and have everyone sign off the call with a little birthday message for Levon. We now have this wonderful footage of all of Levon’s family members together wishing him well that he can watch when he is older.

The second – a walk-by birthday celebration to celebrate a neighbour’s son. From 2-4pm friends and neighbours were invited to walk or drive by to wish Paxton well on his ninth birthday. My husband and I tied a banner to our stroller and strolled by the house blowing bubbles and shouting Happy Birthday to Pax on his porch. It was a great way to see friends and neighbours from a safe distance and in a way that brought a smile to everyone’s faces.

As the realities of the pandemic press on, I’m encouraged by these small acts of innovation that help bring us all comfort and familiarity in a time that is neither of the two.

Celebrating in a Time of Social Distancing

By: Heather Keam

family cookingI was asked to think about stories of celebration during COVID19 and I know and have seen a lot of celebrations happening with parades, making noise, singing and flowers.  When I thought about the question, I automatically went to celebrating the gift of time.  Its kind of strange that I went there because in the beginning of the physical distancing I was not happy with all free time I had.  I am a social person who is involved in lots of groups and committees and so my weeks are full of meetings, scouting, sporting and socializing.    Now that we are a month in to staying at home and being forced to “stop and smell the roses” I now am celebrating all the gifts that I have been missing out on for so many years:

  • We dusted off the foosball table and fixed the Ping-Pong table and are now having family fun that is not electronic
  • I have found my love for cooking again and have been cooking up old and new recipes (who knew that Gnocchi only had 3 ingredients)
  • Our family dinners are not the drive thru version (eat quick we have to go!) …we now spend more time having conversations and eating together
  • All the little renovations that we have been putting off because we did not have time are getting done
  • I have connected with my sisters on a weekly basis and feel that I have rediscovered who my sisters are. Prior to COVID19 we would go for months without connecting. 

Over the past week I have been really celebrating the gift of time and reflecting on how time can be swallowed up by activities and tasks that in the grand scheme don’t really matter.  When I hear that this will be over soon, there is a sense of fear or hesitation that is slowly creeping into my heart and mind…I don’t want to go back to how things were before physical distancing.   How can I transform a new life that puts celebration and time at the center?

Adding Delight and Surprise to Virtual Celebrations

By: Lisa Attygalle

Sharing FoodAt this point with physical distancing practices, many people are starting to feel ‘zoomed out’. So how can we mix things up in this limited reality? Recently, a group of 6 had planned a virtual dinner party but decided to add a new twist. In the style of Secret Santa, we used this online tool to draw names, and each person had to order the ultimate takeout dinner for the person whose name they drew. Our rules were that you had to order from a local restaurant, and the food was to be delivered at 7:30pm.

We got on the Zoom call at 7pm, did our catch ups, and then witnessed each person receiving their gift of dinner. As we sat there waiting for the doorbell to ring, I had the sense of anticipation and excitement similar to Christmas morning. Each person would disappear from the screen, grab their dinner (contact-less delivery of course), and reappear to open their bag and reveal what dinner they would eat. After everyone had their food we took turns guessing who the gift giver was for each, and we described why we picked that food for that person.

Eating together and thanking each other was cathartic, and joyful!

Celebrating the Weekend with Scrumptious Scones

By: Pamela Teitelbaum

Homemade SconesMy baking paid off this last week in love. It is something I do to relax and create, finding it not only meditative and calming, but also really grounds my desire to feed my family healthy, fresh food. I’ve been baking scones since the Pandemic started, as a way of welcoming the weekend. It’s quick and rewarding.  I love cooking, but I find baked goods are amazing in that they send a warmth across the house, with a great smell wafting out of the kitchen.

This weekend my 10-year-old daughter decided to make homemade guacamole to accompany the scones and present it to me in the shape of a happy face on our plates!! It was a great surprise. She wanted to contribute more joy to our Sunday morning, and she did it with great success! Sometimes, it’s the small things that lead to the greatest impact!

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Announcements & Updates

As a member of Tamarack’s learning community, we wanted to reach out to you in these challenging times as communities struggle with unprecedented COVID-19 responses. We plan to offer at least one webinar a week until the end of April, and as always these are free. See the current list of webinars. The next webinars available are:

  • Building Virtual Communities of Practice
    Date: April 30, 2020
    In this webinar, Liz Weaver and Lisa Attygalle will share how to design and support the development of a community of practice. Sylvia Cheuy will also share a case study from Atlanta Georgia which illustrates how intentional design can lead to an engaged peer learning network.

  • Addressing Global Issues Starts with Community
    Date: May 4, 2020
    When governments and agencies partner with community, new possibilities emerge and the impact can be exponentially greater even when addressing global issues such as climate change and pandemics. Join Jim Diers and Cathy Urquhart as they explore the power of partnering with neighbourhoods.

Do reach out to us with any questions – our contact page has our direct numbers and emails. We are here to help.

Liz, Paul, and the Tamarack Team