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The negative and positive effects of the Coronavirus pandemic in Al-Quds

Maya De Vries Kedem26 August 2020

Blog post by Laila Abed Rabho and Maya de Vries

This blog post is available to read in English as well as Arabic (please scroll down for the Arabic language version).

As home-based self-isolation has become the most common way of avoiding the COVID-19 virus, in many households, anxiety has set in as a result of the acceleration of the spread of the pandemic around the world.

Although quarantining at home will not prevent the spread of the virus altogether, it does help distribute the number of cases over a longer period of time, which is important from the perspective of the distribution of health resources and the provision of medical care to those who need it. However, home quarantine has both negative and positive consequences, at least according to some of the people in Al-Quds that we talked to. On the one hand, it may lead to a breakdown in social contact, especially for individuals who are most threatened with isolation and loneliness, including the elderly, people with special needs or those suffering from various conditions. At the same time, the Corona crisis has helped us see the elderly differently. They are our family and the family of our friends, as well as being the ones who have worked hard all their life provide those who come after them with a decent life – at the very least, they deserve the appreciation of others as well as the guarantee that they will be safe.

Recently, many local initiatives have emerged to help elderly people who are unable to shop on their own or who need help with household matters. Also, a large number of young people have committed to self-isolating at home to protect the elderly from the risk of infection with the Coronavirus. This has shown us that in times of crisis, we need each other more than ever.

Life before and after the pandemic set in

The elderly are accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The community of elderly people in Dar el Hawa, which is a village in Al-Quds and the fieldsite for our research, used to regularly go to a club for seniors, where they would spend time doing various activities, whether this is attending religious, cultural, educational and educational lectures or just having conversations with one other. However, because of warnings from the Ministry of Health, they were forced to stay in their homes, which negatively impacted both their mental and physical health, mostly due to the lack of direct contact with their friends and children. However, friends and children did check in on them via their smartphones, knowing that, during the Coronavirus pandemic, they were likely to undergo physical and hormonal changes as well as being psychologically affected (and more likely to develop depression and anxiety).

In general, locally, aid and donations to the needy are offered at specific times, especially in the month of Ramadan or during festive periods, but the pandemic has fostered a sense of social solidarity as some families experienced financial and economic difficulties and donations and money were collected and distributed to those most in need, as a way of topping up the aid coming from government institutions. Grandmothers who regularly took care of their grandchildren and who used to go out shopping or for breakfast or lunch with one another from time to time and who would visit each other’s homes to have coffee at least once a week are now confined to their homes, avoiding going out because they believe the virus is deadly as this is what they hear on the news on a regular basis. In addition, communication between them has been restricted to phone calls. All of these factors have had a psychological impact on their daily life.

On a more positive note, however, some of them tried to fill their free time by making food and sweets and selling them online for some additional income.

Examples of baked goods made and sold during lockdown. There were also those for whom the quarantine meant that they had the opportunity to escape daily stress and rearrange their thoughts – a rare opportunity for calm. It also gave others the opportunity to discover some of their hidden talents – after all, experts say that boredom is what encourages innovation. Some women have embroidered masks in order to encourage their use. In addition, a woman had crocheted a strap that had the benefit of better fixing the mask onto the face.

Women trying on masks with embroidered motifs. Photo credit: Anadolu News Agency. The photo can be found here.

Loss of freedom, the COVID-19 stigma and spending more time with family members

If we look at the negative impact of the virus on individuals, families and society, we can observe that some older customs and traditions within the community may have contributed to this. For example, there have been cases of people in the village being infected with coronavirus and not disclosing it, as doing so would be seen as a mark of shame and would make them the target of bullying and mockery, which might, in turn, have a negative effect on their psychological wellbeing. When this practice becomes widespread, it can lead to an increase in cases, even though there have also been many examples of responsible and conscious groups that have warned everyone around them when they contracted the virus in order to protect their families and members of their community (especially those who have elderly people at home) by preventing them from getting infected.

The lockdown has also made our research participants feel a certain loss of freedom, as they are forced to stay in their homes, which has contributed to increasing their anxiety and tension.  On the other hand, there were also members of the community who found this to be positive because it gave them the opportunity to spend time with their family members, dedicating more time than ever to their families.  Parents who normally work full-time were finally able to spend time and play with them. Indeed, some of the members of the Dar el Hawa community turned the free time they had with their children into a positive, setting up different activities for them, including sports, games or even simply playing pranks on unsuspecting family members – they did not let their children get bored.

Whilst preoccupied with work and life matters, some may forget and others may ignore their social relationships, whether this is to do with family, friends or neighbours. Some have re-evaluated the importance of friends in their life, especially during moments when they spend most of their time at home with their family. Humans are social beings, and the lockdown has caused some to reconsider their priorities.

Husbands who previously complained that their wives were neglecting the home have come to understand how much women actually do in terms of housework, especially if there are other pressures such as employment outside the home. One example of this situation was the husband of one of our research participants, who was finally able to experience how tiring it is to clean, cook, raise children and teach, in addition to working outside the home. This has led to more sharing of household duties, with the husband taking over more of the cooking and childcare. This is someone who, previously, would not see much of his kids due to his job, which requires him to work long hours, often returning late in the evening.

Silver linings and benefits of the pandemic: online learning and sharing of household duties

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a positive effect on young people and low-income families who do not have the financial means to help their children get married, for example. Young people who were about to get married but wanted to comply with advice coming from the Ministry of Health (which warned against gathering in large numbers) were able to hold smaller-scale events with a small number of attendees in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The pandemic has meant that people gathering to celebrate a specific event were able to save on the cost of hosting these, whether we are talking about lunches or other celebratory events.

In addition, we must not forget about one of the other benefits of the pandemic (perhaps one of the most important ones), which is the fact that pupils moved entirely to distance learning after schools were physically shut. In Al-Quds, this has led to an improvement in terms of families adopting modern technology such as Zoom and online exams. Although distance learning has improved pupils’ skills and abilities in terms of using computers and smartphones, it has also had a negative impact on families who have multiple children but did not have enough devices to participate in the educational process. Providing the necessary tools for educational participation is something that needs to be taken into account by the Ministry of Education if it wants to increase educational inclusion.

In Al-Quds, as elsewhere, the Coronavirus pandemic has had both negative and positive effects on all segments of society.

 

الاثار السلبية والايجابية لجائحة كورونا

 

يسيطر القلق على كثير من الناس نتيجة تسارع وتيرة انتشار فيروس كورونا المستجد حول العالم، حيث بات العزل المنزلي طريقة لابد منها لتجنب الإصابة به.

الحجر المنزلي لن يمنع انتشار الفيروس، لكنه يساعد في توزيع عدد الحالات على فترة زمنية أطول، ما يجعله مهما بالنسبة لتوزيع الموارد الصحية وتقديم الرعاية الطبية لمن يحتاجون إليها

لكن الحجر المنزلي له تبعات سلبية وايجابية بحسب البعض، إذ قد يؤدي إلى انهيار التواصل الاجتماعي، خصوصا بالنسبة للأفراد الأكثر تهديدا بالعزلة والوحدة، بينهم المسنون وذوو الاحتياجات الخاصة أو من يعانون من أمراض

أزمة كورونا جعلتنا ننظر للمسنين بشكل مختلف، فهم أهلنا وأهل أصدقائنا، هم من عملوا بجهد في شبابهم ليوفروا لمن بعدهم حياة كريمة، ولذلك يستحقون من الآخرين التقدير والحفاظ على سلامتهم

فقد ظهرت في الأونة الأخيرة العديد من المبادرات لمساعدة كبار السن غير القادرين على التسوق بمفردهم أو من يحتاجون للمساعدة في تدبير أمور المنزل. كما التزم عدد كبير من الشباب بالعزل المنزلي لحماية الأكبر سناً من خطر الإصابة بعدوى فيروس كورونا. وهو ما أظهر لنا أنه في وقت الأزمات يحتاج كل منا للآخر.

فالمسنين اعتادوا على نمط حياة معين فقد كان كبار السن يذهبون الى نادي للمسنين لقضاء وقت لل ترفيه وفعاليات مختلفة كحضور محاضرات دينية ،ثقافية،توعوية وتبادل الاحاديث فيما بينهم لكن بسبب التحذيرات من وزارة الصحة  التزموا بيوتهم مما اصر سلبيا على صحتهم النفسية والبدنية بسبب قلة تواصلهم المباشر مع اصدقائهم وابنائهم وكان فقط الاطمئنان عليهم عبر الهاتف الذكي علما بان المسنين دون جائحة كورونا بسبب التغييرات الجسدية وتغير الهرمونات وكبار السن يتاثرون نفسيا وبتعرضون للكابة والقلق  فما بالكم بوجود جائحة كورونا وتاثيرها على نفسيتهم

بشكل عام كانت المساعدات والتبرع للمحتاجين يكون في وقت معين خاصة في شهر رمضان او في فترات الاعياد لكن في جائحة كورونا ظهر التكافل الاجتماعي والشعور بالاسر المحتاجة فكان اهل البلد يجمعون المونة واحيانا النقود لتوزيعها على المحتاجين بالاضافة الى المعونات التي كانت تاتي من المؤسسات الحكومية

الجدات اللواتي يحتضن احفادهن كن يخرجن احيانا للتسوق مع بعضهن او لتناول وجبات فطور او غداء سويا واحيانا يتبادلن الزيارات لاحتساء القهوة يوم بالاسبوع في منزل كل واحدة مرة بالاسبوع لكن بعد جائحة  كورونا والخوف من هذا الفيروس الذي يعتقد البعض انه فتاك بسبب تهزيل ما يقال عنه في محطات التواصل الاجتماعي، فقد التزمن بيوتهن واصبح التواصل بينهم عن طريق الهاتف فقط وهذا له اثر نفسي على الحياة اليومية لهؤلاء النساء

ومن ناحية اخرى  جزء منهن حاول التغلب على وقت الفراغ بعمل انواع معينة من الماكولات والحلويات وعرضها عن طريق الاونلاين من اجل بيعها وتمكين انفسهن اقتصاديا

وقسم منهن أتاح لهم العزل المنزلي بعض الهدوء في حياتهم، حيث أعطاهم الفرصة للابتعاد عن الضغط اليومي وإعادة ترتيب أفكارهم. كما أتاح للبعض الآخر فرصة اكتشاف بعض المواهب الدفينة لديهم، حيث يقول الخبراء إن الملل قد يدفع البعض للابتكار.، حيث قامت بعض النساء بالتطريز على الكمامات بهدف الترغيب في استعمالها بالاضافة لهذا فقد قامت ايضا احدى النساء باختراع قطعة من الكروشيه (صنع يدوي )لتثبيت الكمامة عليها

لقد كان للعادات والتقاليد البالية أثر سلبي على الأفراد والعائلات والمجتمع من قبل المصابين بفيروس كورونا، والسبب هو ان من يتبين لديه أنه مصاب بفيروس كورونا لا يقوم بالإفصاح عن ذلك باعتبار هذا وسم عار عليه وعيب حيث يخاف من التنمر والاستهزاء اضافة الى توجيه كلام قد يؤثر على نفسيته وهو اعتقاده بأن الكثير سوف يتشمت به فهناك فئة لم تعلن عن اصابتها مما ادى الى زيادة الحالات وهناك فئة اخرى مسؤولة وواعية تعلن عن اصابتها من أجل تجنيب عائلاتهم وابناء مجتمعهم من الاصابة وخاصة من لديه كبار سن في البيت مثل الأب والأم والاجداد.

ان الحجر أيضا  احسهم بفقدان الحرية لأنهم ماكثون في بيوتهم مرغمين لا بخاطرهم وباختيارهم مما يزيد من قلقهم وتوترهم ولكن من ناحية اخرى هناك الكثير الذين وجدوا في ذلك ايجابية بسبب الفرصة التي توفرت لهم للمكوث مع أفراد أسرهم حيث الدفء العائلي وهذا شيء جميل حيث أصبح وقت للأب والام العاملين أن يجلسوا مع أطفالهم واللعب معهم وفعلا هناك من استغل الحجر بصورة ايجابية ولم يترك اطفاله يشعرون بعدم الحرية عن طريق وضع برامج لهم منها الرياضية ومنها اللعب وعمل مقالب مضحكة مع أفراد اسرته وغير ذلك..

ففي ظل الإنشغال بالعمل وأمور الحياة، قد ينسى البعض ويتجاهل آخرون علاقاته الاجتماعية سواء مع الأهل أو الأصدقاء أو الجيران. الآن تجلس الأسرة الواحدة معاً، وتظهر قيمة الأصدقاء في حياة الفرد. فالإنسان كائن اجتماعي من الدرجة الأولى، والعزل الحالي جعل البعض يعيد ترتيب أولوياته مرة أخرى.

حتى الزوج كان يتهم زوجته  دائما بالتقصير بالبيت لكن مع جائحة كورونا والحجر الصحي عرف الزوج وقدر ما تقوم به المراة من اعمال منزلية وضغوطات بالذات عندما تكون المراة عاملة خارج المنزل

واصبح يشعر معها كم هي تتعب في داخل المنزل من تنظيف وطهي وتربية اولاد وتدريس بالاضافة الى عملها خارج البيت مما ادى الى مشاركته لها في بعض الاعمال المنزلية كالطهي والطبيخ اضافة الى الترابط الاسري والتقرب الى ابنائه ،بعد ان كان احيانا لا يراهم نتيحة خروجه من البيت مبكرا ورجوعه متاخرا

هناك اثر ايجابي لجائحة  كورونا على الشباب والاسر الفقيرة التي ليس لديها امكانيات مادية كافية من أجل اتمام فرحتها بزواج ابنائها وبسبب المصاريف الكثيرة التي يتحملها الشباب وعائلاتهم من اعباء مادية لا يقدرون عليها

استغل الشباب المرتبطين اتمام عملية فرحتهم وبالزواج ممن يرغبون متقيدين بتعاليم وزىرة الصحة بعدم التجمهر وعدم التجمع باعداد كبيرة من اجل المحافظة على سلامتهم وسلامة افراد مجتمعهم وبأقل التكاليف المطلوبة لتوفي الغداء والضيافة للمعازيم .

علينا ان لا ننسى الفائدة العظيمة والاهم من كل شيئ وهي أن لجائحة كورونا والتي بسببها اغلقت المدارس حيث انتقل الطلاب للتعلم عن بعد مما ادى الى تطور في تعلم  استخدام التكنولوجيا الحديثة كالزوم وتقديم الامتحانات عن طريق اون لاين مما أكسبهم مهارة وقدرة على استخدام الحاسوب والهاتف الذكي ولكن من ناحية اخرى كان لذلك اثر سلبي على العائلات التي لديها أكثر من طالب حيث لم يتوفر لديهم اجهزة كافية من الحاسوب والهواتف الذكية من أجل التواصل مع العملية التعليمية وهذا يجب ان تقوم وزارة التعليم بحله بتوفير الادوات الازمة للعملية التعليمية

هكذا نرى ان لفيروس كورونا آثار سلبية واخرى ايجابية على جميع شرائح المجتمع

No “pãodemia” for older people

Marilia Duque E S25 June 2020

“Pãodemia” is the expression used to describe the phenomenon of people baking bread (bread is “pão” in Portuguese), cakes and cookies during the quarantine that was imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. The expression, created by the Portuguese chef Filipa Gomes, went viral when she shared a video on her Instagram with a tutorial on how to make bread at home using just four ingredients. She named the recipe “Pãodemia”[1]. During these months of isolation, a cooking craze spread like a fever in Brazil and in other places in the world[2] as a way of avoiding leaving home, occupying one’s free time and alleviating stress. As a consequence, other than the huge rise in demand for flour in Brazil, Google registered an increase in searches for bread recipes in the country. At the end of March 2020, the number of search terms used to find bread recipes had quadrupled compared to any period in 2019[3].

Filipa Gomes’s “Pãodemia” tutorial on Instagram. Screengrab taken by the author.

The idea of turning every recipe into a pleasant activity also gained visibility on social media. People who before COVID-19 had no time to be at home or cook now share pictures of their homemade recipes, competing for distinction among peers. On my social media channels, I could see many friends my age who were chefs sharing their bread, cakes and other homemade dishes. I was also invited to a WhatsApp group called “Pandemic Kitchen”, where friends were challenged to share their creativity in cooking during the quarantine.

Directly from the oven to social media feeds. Screengrab of post shared on my Facebook timeline.

However, I observed that none of the older people I met during my 16-month ethnography in Sao Paulo were sharing any bread or cake photos. Instead, they kept sharing information they considered relevant to their peers together with all kinds of opportunities to learn new things or engage in new activities, all of which were now restricted to the online. What’s more, I also noticed they were creating many of these new opportunities.

One of the groups I studied during my research is organised around the purpose of developing new alternatives to work in old age, with the added challenge that these alternatives should combine pleasure and financial gains. To my surprise, they quickly migrated their face-to-face weekly meeting to Zoom, where they now have meetings and activities every day. Before coronavirus started, I guess like most of us, they didn’t know about Zoom. Their online activities were mainly concentrated on their Whatsapp group as well as the WhatsApp Broadcast list they use to keep the group up to date about the schedule of face-to-face activities. Although the group is focused on working and entrepreneurship, a recent survey conducted by one of the members revealed that 72% of them joined the group’s meetings to improve their sociability. This result confirmed something they already knew. Their biggest mission, as a group, is to make older people leave their homes, fighting isolation and offering a collective opportunity for them to be productive and useful. Most of the time, members make their skills available to the group and most of their initiatives address problems they face in everyday life. In other words, they are working for themselves, to improve their own experience of ageing.

When the face to face meetings were suspended, they had to move fast to avoid letting the group die. And so they did. With a professional background in collecting data through surveys, one of the members created a questionnaire using Google Docs with a portfolio of ideas for things they could do together, even at distance. The ideas people showed more interest in were transformed into their own dedicated WhatsApp groups and the respondents were automatically included according to their preferences. The most popular initiative existed even before COVID-19 – it was the “Demystifying Smartphones” workshop, created by Sergio Grinberg, aged 69. Grinberg uses his professional background working with computers to help older people to feel comfortable with their smartphones and especially with WhatsApp. However, with coronavirus, the workshop addressed what became older people’s first priority: learning how to use Zoom platform[4]. And they succeeded. As shown in their weekly schedule below, they now have activities on Zoom from Monday to Saturday.

Trabalho 60+ weekly agenda of activities on Zoom

Last Sunday, I invited the team responsible for organising these activities to a Zoom meeting, where I could get to know what they were metaphorically “cooking” better. I started by asking whether they had baked any bread, as I thought I could have missed something. They explained they had thought about an activity where they would all bake bread according to the same recipe and then donate all of it to a charity but people didn’t stick to the initiative. One of the explanations for this is that they are all focused on solving their own problems first, creating opportunities for older people to be connected and empowered. The second one is a kind of a been-there-done-that explanation. To put it in their words:

“For us, cooking became a pain in the ass. Now we are confined to being home again. But we don’t post what we are doing alone. We cook together. That is fun.”

Zoom meeting with the “Trabalho 60+” group members. Screengrab taken by the author.

Keeping doing things together – that is their spirit. In that vein, instead of posting what they consider domestic affairs, they created the Zoom event “Cooking with Friends”. Every Friday, they get online on Zoom to cook the same recipe. Each week, a different person is responsible for sharing the recipe with the ingredients and instructions, so they have time to organise themselves and get the ingredients together. During the meeting, the person sharing the recipe is also “the chef” who will guide the friends through making the recipe.

All set for the activity “Cooking with Friends”. Photo: @Eduardo Meyer

Outside the kitchen, the group is also engaged in other activities, such as organising a virtual library where they share the eBooks they have. They also have a “Janelas para o Mundo” (“Windows to the world” in Portuguese) initiative, during which they have discussions related to literature, following a dynamic similar to the one used in the “Cooking with Friends” initiative. A selected text is shared with the group and they get together once a week to have a guided discussion. People can also practice facial gym exercises on Tuesdays (they have now opened a second class, as there was huge demand for it) or join the Happy Hour meeting every Friday evening when they also celebrate the birthdays of the week. They have a choice of around 18 activities to join during the week. As there are plenty of options, people started advertising their own initiatives as they are competing for their friends’ attention. To help them, the workshop “Demystifying Smartphones” is also teaching people how to manage other applications such as Canva[5], a graphic design platform that can help them create posts for Facebook and Instagram, videos and presentations, as seen in the examples below.

Card shared on WhatsApp to promote the event “Windows to the World”. As seen on the left side on the top, the initiative even has a logo.

Card shared on WhatsApp to promote the event “Cooking with friends”.

With creativity and a pinch of professionalism, this group of older people are refusing to be confined at home. They were once confined at home, far before COVID-19 started, when they retired. Since then, they have fought hard to conquer new spaces and visibilities. Therefore, they can be confined to the online now but they are not particularly interested in bread. Instead, they are performing their miracles to multiply the opportunities they have to stay connected as a group, being productive while at the same time, sharing some of life’s pleasures together.

To get a taste of how the group “Trabalho 60+” is using Zoom platform to keep together during the quarantine, watch the video below and enjoy the experience of cooking with friends. It is mouthwatering, to say the least.

Video produced by “chef” Conrado when the taught other members of the group how to prepare the cauliflower pie.

 

[1] https://www.noticiasaominuto.com/fama/1453284/paodemia-a-receita-de-filipa-gomes-que-se-tornou-viral-no-instagram

[2] https://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2020-04-09/todo-mundo-em-busca-de-receitas-de-pao-caseiro-para-amenizar-a-quarentena.html

[3] https://saude.estadao.com.br/noticias/geral,na-quarentena-assar-pao-e-bolo-ganha-espaco-e-aumenta-procura-por-farinha,70003261439

[4] https://br.vida-estilo.yahoo.com/inspiracoes-terceira-idade-sergio-grinberg-091843876.html?soc_src=community&soc_trk=fb

[5] https://www.canva.com/