Transformed by a shared experience of community and lifelong friendships, Alumni of International House NY carry the I-House Spirit wherever they go. Below, a glimpse into life during pandemic in Brazil.
Betania Silva ’98 (Brazilian)
Occupation: NGO Coordinator and Teacher
“I am spending time in my city. I live in my house and in my mom`s house. I am in charge of taking care of these two houses. I am working online and fundraising in order to buy food for the poor who live in the community of Coelhos.”
How have you, your family, and your community been impacted?
My family lost one person for COVID-19. It was very sad. The community where I live suffers from lack of good communication from the authorities, specially our president and the health minister. Therefore there are many people who do not believe in coronavirus or the consequences it might have in people’s lives. This pandemic is different from others because it has a great scale related to countries where the disease has spread and also because of the technology we have. Communication is a plus during this time!
What are the most dramatic shifts in your community?
The great amount of people who are having difficulties and losing their houses and jobs during the pandemic.There is something tragic…buses have been reduced during the lockdown. There has been a bit of opening but the number of buses remain reduced….So how to avoid being with many people if we can not get on a bus with a few people?
What aspect of your culture and community has become more apparent in this difficult time?
The need we have to be together. I miss our popular celebrations on the street. We have a huge carnival time when people get together on the streets for five days. Then in June we have another celebration and we dance together cheek to cheek. We are missing it a lot.
A positive is that I have learned that there are studies about the pandemic. They foresee that it is possible that virus can be stopped before it spreads. So it depends on a political decision to do that. It is better to prevent something from happening than solving a problem.
What is the most difficult part of this experience for you?
The amount of time that I have to spend in front of a computer and the lack of universal internet in my city.
How are you staying connected with others?
Through the internet – WhatsApp, Google Meets and Zoom. [I’ve been in touch with Alumni in:] Cyprus, the USA, Mongolia, Egypt, Ecuador, Russia…
Be strong and caring. Solidarity does make a great difference!
Daniela Landim ’16 (American/Brazilian)
How have you and your family been affected? I am currently living on my own and working from home. My parents left their house in São Paulo and went to their ranch to stay away from the big city. My brother, who lives in another city, got a plane to SP as soon as he could and is now staying at my parents’ house since he had to close his offices as well.
As a business owner I was very impacted. I had to close the office for a long period of time; we have been closed since March 19th. My team and I had to reinvent ourselves to deliver online sessions to our clients (we deliver ABA intervention for children on the autism spectrum).
I’m a Behavior Analyst and I work with kids on the autism spectrum. Since quarantine started we had to drastically decrease services, and a lot of children and families were left in need of help. My team and I organized several (free) “Live on Instagram” events with the goal of sharing information and helping these families. Topics range from basic principles of behavior analysis to teaching kids to increase their communication skills to guiding parents on how they can help their children during quarantine.
On the difficulties and overcoming hardships: Probably the increase in the level of stress and anxiety that the situation brings us. I mean, it’s not easy dealing with drastic and sudden changes in routines. It’s also so hard to just not know when things will get back to “normal.” I had a very busy schedule, where I would sometimes wake up at 5am, get on a plane from São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro or Curitiba for work, have several meetings and then get back on a plane to São Paulo that same day. Or maybe I would wake up at 6am, get to work by 7:45, see several clients, drive to three different locations and then drive back home at 7pm. On weekends I would go to the gym, walk the dogs, have lunch with my family, go out with friends and see my boyfriend… I was not a stay at home kind of person…. And all of a sudden, I had to stay home alone.
I had a lot of free time and alone time on my hands. I’ve started playing the guitar–I’m still a beginner but I guess I have a lot of extra time at home these days to practice. I’ve also started cooking. I would never cook at my mom’s house and I never even entered the kitchen at I-House. For the past two and a half months I’ve been cooking almost every day, I guess I actually enjoy it! I have also learned to enjoy sunsets I watch from my apartment building.
I’ve learned to cope with the situation by accepting it and definitely by taking one day at a time. Understanding the situation and focusing on the positive also helps… no need to push what doesn’t fit. Some days are better than others and that’s okay! Reaching out to friends and family during difficult times is a must.
I see people wanting to and actually helping others. On social media I see friends posting about other friends’ businesses, sharing helpful information about how to cope with the situation, I see colleagues (psychologists) offering free online services for people dealing with anxiety and stress during these times. On WhatsApp groups, friends are checking in on each other and making sure everyone is handling the situation in a positive way. We all have our bad and good days, and having all of this support definitely makes our days better. Seeing these kind acts gives us all a sense of hope of a better future.
On connecting with other Alumni: We have actually maintained more contact. I guess these difficult times brings us together. I have had FaceTime calls, more conversations on WhatsApp, and we even had a birthday party on Zoom with about 30 people!
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