Staying Inside, Together

Although many of us are staying inside away from others, we are also finding new and unique ways to connect and provide support to each other during this time.

UCC instructor, trainer and consultant Pauline Martel shared her experience using UCC’s adapted social distancing tool Zoom during this time. “I really miss seeing our students face-to-face, chatting in the hallways, hearing about their day to day struggles and accomplishments, meeting their children, and hearing their laughter as they talk with each other. Zoom has helped fill the gap a little and I have enjoyed telephone calls, texts, and e-mails as a way to maintain communication,” says Martel. 

UCC instructor Pauline Martel suggests students maintain contact, be flexible, be kind and be patient.

Photo provided by Pauline Martel

Martel has had previous experience with online teaching which has benefited her this term. “Although I am new to Zoom, I have taught online classes and home study classes in the past so the processes of restructuring classes, although tedious, was not particularly difficult. I’m grateful for the previous experience,” Martel says. “I have experienced the many transition difficulties some of our students are having now and know that they are under a lot of stress and are dealing with high levels of anxiety. Maintaining contact, being flexible and patient are even more important that ever.” 

Martel also described acts of kindness and togetherness she has experienced, particularly with her 95 year old mother whom she has not been able to see face-to-face. “Two young friends of my mother’s are dropping off cheery flowers or shopping for her when they are shopping for themselves. Another young friend of mine called to see how she could help either for me or my mom,” Martel says. “A former student, now working in the community, called to see if there was anything she could bring me, go grocery shopping, etc. My cousin in Australia has been posting funny comments to my Facebook and we facetime more than we normally do.”

Joe Valdivia is a parent, teaches Motor Controls One and Two at UCC and is an electrician at Roseburg Forest Products. “I was teaching my class last term and the way we did finals was totally different. Usually we do a review of the term but after the test it was just in and out,” says Valdivia about his recent experience teaching before things went online.

Joe Valdivia is a parent, teaches Motor Controls One and Two at UCC and is an electrician at Roseburg Forest Products.

Photo provided by Joe Valdivia

Valdivia has also noticed his workplace Roseburg Forest Products participating in precautions. “Social distancing is enforced where I go to work.When we go to the time clock it’s marked off six feet apart and our supervisors stand by to ensure we are distant. In the break room supervisors are also watching to ensure distancing and are monitoring how many people are sitting in the offices. They are spraying disinfectant around the mill as well,” says Valdivia.

Validivia also expressed how this has been affecting his family life, “I have elderly in-laws staying in my home so we have to be vigilant with social distancing and washing our hands because they are at high risk. Our children haven’t been able to visit and we miss them but we have to do what’s right.”

Dharma Mirza is an artist, educator and activist from Corvallis, OR. Dharma centers her advocacy on lgbqt+ advocacy, health equity, harm reduction and sexual health. She is a senior at Oregon State Univesity majoring in public heath; health promotion and behavior with minors in Queer Studies and Medical Humanities “As a student its been difficult. Everywhere is shut down and we are suddenly doing a lot of remote classes which has impacted accessibility for myself personally. We went from having one of the biggest campuses in Oregon to doing school from home in a matter of days,” Mirza says. 

Dharma Mirza has found online education is difficult.

Photo provided by Dharma Mirza

The pandemic has also affected Mirza’s work. “It’s hard because I work on campus also so I’ve lost a lot of work. I also do a lot of community organizing such as LGBQT+ nightlife events and performing arts events. As an artist and event producer this has been especially hard because I’ve suddenly lost my main source of income and I’m not able to seek unemployment as an independent contractor. I’ve also lost a lot of work from lectures and speaking engagements at universities and academic conferences.”

Mirza also has a unique perspective as being immunocompromised during this time, “I’m HIV positive so I understand how important it is to have resources during a pandemic. I’ve received a lot of monetary support at the start of the closures,” Mirza says. “We had some big events planned and I received hundreds of dollars in support from would-be event attendees, other community organizers from across the nation and professional and educational colleagues. I’ve also had plenty of folks offer to bring me food and groceries.” 

Mirza has also recognized the worldwide community coming together. “Much like what we’ve seen in the 1980s Aids pandemic, a lot of social justice organizations and marginalized communities are coming together despite extreme circumstances to form coalitions of mutual care and care networks for those most heavily affected by the pandemic,” says Mirza. “The pandemic has highlighted the disposability of black and brown lgbqt+ and disabled bodies but the positive comes from the development of comprehensive care and support networks in the face of extreme adversity.”

Heather Roegiers, a Sacramento, CA resident and recent graduate with a degree in Journalism is passionate about her new voyage into being a stand-up comedian.“This completely ended what I considered to be my calling doing stand-up comedy. That entire profession is frozen still. I consider it pretty disruptive.” 

Heather Roegiers had her profession disrupted.

Photo provided by Heather Roegiers

Roegiers has had to process the isolation that can be felt during quarantine. “I’ve been in jail before for ten days, after ten days of quarantine it started to really challenge me. I had to deal with some hard days. It brought up a lot of stuff, but it was kind of good to have this period of isolation,” says Roegiers. “I’m finding a routine, not sitting and watching netflix all day. I’m trying to be proactive and working on skills and educating myself. Generally trying to fill my days with things that fill my soul and are meaningful and I’m trying to make it so I walk away having gotten something out of this period.” Roegiers has found that learning to play the guitar, biking and writing have been especially helpful during this period.

On the East coast, artist Alicia Kirschman has had the unique experience of moving to Manhattan, a community of 1.6 million people, just before the pandemic hit. “Streets are pretty empty, I know for a fact that the way I’m seeing it now is never how I’m going to see it again when this is over. For the most part people are taking it seriously enough to where people are pretty burned out.”

Alicia Kirschman and her partner have been trying to help their community.

Photo provided by Alicia Kirschman

Kirchman and her partner have been trying to help their community. “A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I bought a bunch of gloves and passed them out on the subway. A lot of people appreciated that. It was a little thing but I hope it helped,” says Kirschman. “Our apartment building put up a lot of signs saying if you are sick or in need of anything let the building supervisor know, any packages that are getting delivered can now get delivered to your door.” 

Kirschman also described the way people in their city were showing appreciation for essential workers. “Every night at seven, the whole city cheers for essential workers. They will hang out their windows and bang pots and pans, clap, do anything to make noise to show appreciation. It’s actually super cool.”

Editor’s note: While reporters do not normally write about family and friends, Kamilah’s interviews with her extended family and friends helps give a perspective of hope and community in these difficult times.


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