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 Canada.
Names: Anne & David C. (Canadian)
Occupation: Retired public servants
“We are spending time in our home and garden. We feel blessed to have good health but our hearts are with those who have been affected through illness and loss. We are reaching out to family and friends, providing porch-delivered meals to seniors we know. On a separate note, David chairs a small group which provides assistance to organizations that provide meals to the hungry and homeless.”
What are the most dramatic shifts in your community that you have observed?
Our community has been following the public health guidelines which have been put in place to prevent the spread of the virus. There has been an outreach to those in need and those who may live in isolation such as seniors in long term care. Our federal and provincial governments have shown leadership in guiding Canadians through this challenging period.
What are you appreciating about your country; and what are you missing?
Our country has been in a period of challenge and reflection. Internal tragedies have affected families such as the loss of life in a Canadian military helicopter crash in Europe. One of the physical challenges is that many families cannot come together to grieve and support one another. In Canada we appreciate the kindness and thoughtfulness which Canadians show to one another. We are a country of diversity and understanding but this period has shown us all that we must show greater insight and understanding and put action to thoughts and words to assist the homeless, our seniors, our immigrant community, our black and indigenous community who are still living in disadvantaged situations.
What aspect of your community has become more apparent in this difficult time?
Our response is about the word “appreciation.” In our community we look out each day and are appreciative to see our neighbours walking by. We wave from a distance. We are all walking more slowly and enjoying our walks and life and appreciating how blessed we are. We see a difference in that we as a community are taking care of each other, appreciating one another. We are so appreciative of the good in human nature but we must work to educate each other about what is different and diverse in each human being. Through understanding differences we build bridges to equality. There are words which keep coming to the fore of our minds each day, and they are “Gratitude,” “Kindness,” “Compassion” and yes, “Understanding.” We cannot truly show love to one another if we do not have open hearts.
What strikes you most about how your country is handling the pandemic?
Our national and provincial leadership through our Prime Minister, and through our provincial leadership as well.
Canadians are kind and peaceful people. Our innate behavior of caring for one another has risen to bring out the best during this time. Canadians have calmly and effectively risen to the challenges which they have faced. They have followed the rules calmly about social distancing and wearing face masks. Given the challenges, support for the hungry and homeless has remained a priority when shelters have provided boxed meals and takeout for those in need. Front line workers have worked courageously and tirelessly in hospitals and long term care homes, saving lives and preventing the spread of the virus. Public Health was taken for granted and now it is a priority. I am touched by thoughtful gestures of reaching out to one another. I-House NY is the epitome of this thoughtfulness and care.
What is the most difficult part of this experience for you? How are you dealing with the hardships?
We miss seeing our son who lives in the northwest of Canada. We have senior family members who live in another part of Canada. We are in contact with them daily to ensure their well-being. Long distance communication is not the same as being with our loved ones.
What is something positive or hopeful you have taken away from this experience?
I live with the belief that whenever there is despair there is always hope. As difficult as it is to write this, we will rise from these times with lessons of a better human nature, a stronger society and more compassionate hearts. Our perspective on what we once thought was important we will have reflected on. We are regrouping. I awaken each morning with joy and gratitude in my heart. The sky is clear, the air is less polluted, the birds are singing as we have not heard them in a long time. This gives me hope for the preservation of our earth and the people of this world.
How are you staying connected to others during this time?
We are doing more of the old fashion phone calls, e-mail and Zoom. It is so important to reach out and show others we care, and especially so in our global I-House community.
What has been a moment when you felt particularly connected and a part of a community, culture, or other group?
I am being reflective on this question as it truly accentuates a lifelong held belief that has come to the fore of my being in recent months. One of the great blessings of my life since the age of 11–yes, 11–is that I became aware of International House. My grandparents believed the years which their daughter, my aunt, lived at I-House NY during her graduate studies at Juilliard led to her compassionate intercultural understanding, which all of our family benefited from. This impacted on my university studies, my career and how I have lived my life.
I-House NY is truly a part of my family. Now, more than ever, as we reflect on the events of the global pandemic, social justice issues of inequality and discrimination we must reflect on how blessed we are to have I-House NY in our lives. Let us reflect that it has been a best practice of international understanding for almost a century. It is a gift which fills my heart with gratitude now more than ever before. I-House NY gives us all hope and strength for our global community in the days and years ahead.
Have you remained connected to the Alumni community?
Yes, It is now more vital than ever. It is so important to share with one another that we are thinking about them. Our Chair is in contact with us at least once a week.
We are enthusiastic and hopeful as we look toward the future. The almost-a-century foundation of I-House NY is the epitome of leadership for global outreach and understanding. What an inspiration as we reflect on lives which have been impacted by the I-House community for decades. Each life is part of this almost century old legacy. I-House NY will continue to impact in the future globally more than we can ever anticipate at this time and as we look toward the next century.