On May our organizations gathered together in Teams for a training about the Transformative Evaluation method. Everybody wrote a story about "What has Covid-19 meant to you?". After that each organization worked with the stories: discussed about them, thematically categorized them and decided, which story was the most significant one. The most significant story had to be justified.
Below you can read the chosen four stories about what has Covid-19 meant in our participants lives.
Citygirl, 26, female
When the first news pieces about the virus in Wuhan, China surfaced in January, I was immediately following them with great concern. Even when there was still some confusion regarding the exact starting point and the spread area of the disease, its first main symptoms were quickly established, as were the most notable groups affected by it: the weak elderly, and people living with underlying conditions affecting the respiratory system (so, me, for example). The more news we received about the spreading of the virus, the more I knew it was just a matter of time until it would be in Europe, and then Finland. Many of my healthy able-bodied friends were joking about the virus still in February and I remember my stomach turning when I had to wipe the smiles off their faces, reminding them of my belonging in a high risk group of people who had already died from the disease.
When the virus eventually struck Finland in March and everything got shut down, I quickly left my home in Helsinki to stay with my parents in a smaller town. Although I was still very concerned, I also remember being personally relieved. Preceding the official governmental shutdown procedures I had already retreated from some of my non-obligatory duties and activities, and it had made me feel guilty even if I was just trying to protect myself. The official restrictions removed the burden of having to make the difficult decisions from my shoulders. At that point many of my healthy able-bodied friends, including the ones who had been laughing earlier, had become anxious and some reported crying daily from the worry. I wasn't panicking so much, and I think that it was not only because of the burden had been taken from me, but also because I had been processing the anxiety by myself since January, and just been waiting for the rest of Finland to join me with tangible measures.
So, here I am at my parents' place still, three months in. Apart from general world-weariness I'm personally doing pretty well. I was supposed to start in a new job in April but, due to the corona crisis, it got postponed to the upcoming August. This was a small financial setback - I've still got my rent to pay even if I'm not currently living at my own flat. My physical therapy could be arranged remotely, semi-independently via video calls. I am of course fortunate that my condition is such that this has been possible. Moreover, both me and my parents are yet to fall ill with the virus, and we get along very well. The biggest practical changes in my life have therefore been easily reorganised, which I do not take for granted.
The corona isolation era has also provided me with a chance to stop after a few very hectic years at the university. The obligatory break has come to great use, and as much as I am constantly worried about my own health and that of my loved ones, I have also seized this unexpected breather, as I haven't seen one such in several years. Nevertheless, as surely the majority of people in isolation, from the pre-Covid life I miss my friends the most. I haven't seen any of my friends in three whole months other than on my laptop screen. Prior to this, I haven't been separated from certain close friends for more than a month and the mood has become quite oppressive. What makes it worse is that, now that the common governmental restrictions have been loosened and summer has properly started, my healthy able-bodied friends are enjoying the Helsinki summer and asking me to join them. We're back at the unfortunate situation preceding the official restrictions where the responsibility over my own health is set on my shoulders, and it's left for me to calculate where it is safe for me to go and who to meet. The uncertainty about the future feels oppressing but all we can do is wait.
Ernesto Hemingweyo, 34 years, male
I can still clearly remember the first time I heard about COVID-19. It was in the first half of December, when videos of Chinese hospitals and first forced quarantines organised by their army started to appear on a website I regularly visit. At that time it seemed distant and very strange to me, after all, it was China, another continent, another world - but not for long. After the first cases in Italy had been identified, this illusion was ruined and COVID-19 became part of my everyday life around the beginning of March. For me, it meant closing down my children's kindergartens and major changes at work. I work in a homeless shelter, where most of the residents are in poor health and elderly - definitely belonging to the high risk group. In the first weeks, the problems related to the information chaos and the normal operation of my organisation in this situation have been accompanied by quite difficult moral dilemmas - whether I should go back to my wife and children after work, whether I am exposing the people I am helping to an additional risk because I am collecting goods they need in many places and finally whether it is possible to avoid the infection at all or is it only a matter of time. This period of time was also a stress test for many organizations, including ours. It allowed recognising the true condition of the Social Incubator and identification of the bottlenecks and weaknesses in its management. In this difficult time we have established cooperation with several similar organizations, such as the Order of the Benedictine Sisters with which we have created a procedure of buffer reception of the homeless people. In this procedure, the homeless people asking for shelter stay with the Sisters for the first two weeks and only after this period of isolation they are admitted to our homeless shelter's community. Thanks to the mechanisms developed, we managed to avoid infection in all our facilities.
With time, according to the maxim saying that a human is the only animal that will adapt to any conditions - COVID-19 became a part of my world, same as getting up to work every morning, traffic jams or politicians fighting each other on TV. Similarly, in the Social Incubator we have realised at some point that we had done everything we could and any further restrictions would be disproportionate to the effects and all that remained was waiting. The fear of infection gave way to a certain awareness that, even with the greatest care, becoming infected will always be a possibility and that it is something we will live with for several seasons. Interestingly, in a certain way this awareness helped us return to a quasi-normality, which I think will simply become normal in time...
The Coronavirus has touched each and everyone of us. Some people have experienced hardship, others thrived in lockdown. Thinking of my experience, it's quite positive.
To start with, the quarantine imbalanced my every day routine: I wasn't able to go to work, have proper one-to-one sessions with my clients, my daughter had to start distance learning. This meant I had to juggle between working from home, doing my every day tasks and help my daughter with school work. It wasn't easy to find the same motivation as before, and to get everything done to the same level of quality.
However, this has helped me re-evaluate my living situation: unlike many people in the country, I wasn't at risk of losing my job, my daughter was able to spend more time with me. I have learnt to manage my time better and to balance my lifestyle in a more efficient way.
Even though I wasn't able to go out, I have found new appreciation for my home: I redecorated, did a lot of gardening, started new creative projects at home. To top it all off, I was able to spend a lot of quality time with my family without trying hard to find things to do - we went back to basics and enjoyed family time doing housework together, playing board games. Feels like we got to know each other again.
The quarantine is coming to an end, and all the experiences I have gone through during this time have taught me to appreciate the precious time with family, value my job and relationships with my friends.
Iz, 28 years, female
In the early days of Covid-19 I was not interested in the virus. I was not even sure why media and people around me were making such a big deal of it, as in my head I put it into the same category as other recent viruses such as swine flu or ebola. I was honestly getting bored by the constant information regarding the spread of the virus.
Around mid-March things started to change and our government took some serious measures to combat the virus, such as restrictions with travel, closing down the restaurants and imposing remote studying and work. I was also starting to understand the need for those measures in order to slow down the virus and not break the health care system down with too many patients. I also noticed the energy of fear and panic around me was affecting my state too.
As I started to work remotely, my face-to-face contacts with other people stopped compelety. When I would go outside my home, it was to only take short walks for some fresh air or do grocery shopping. I was feeling miserable while also acknowledging how incredibly lucky I was to still have my work, safety of home and health. I still had to mourn the loss of the life I used to have but in the end I found some kind of acceptance of the situation.
After 2-3 weeks of isolation I started to meet couple of my friends again outdoors and realized how much I had missed having in-real-life contact with people. Also, around that time I was having phone calls with a certain person I had been seeing before the restrictions and noticed I was starting to develop deeper feelings towards them. It all made me think how living during a pandemic sheds light on the things we find important in our lives.
Today the restrictions are not as rigid and the world feels more open again. Of course the virus is still there and we are not anywhere near to "a normal" life. However, I would imagine that we will not be returning to the same normal again. I hope as a society we have learned something from all of this and things could change for a better.