YWCA Toronto staff reflect back on the year of COVID and the lessons they’ve learned.
This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Read part 1 here.
One year ago this month, everything changed – and inevitably so did we. In tribute to a year that tested our strength, resilience, connection and wellbeing, here are the lessons YWCA Toronto staff have learned through a year of living and working in a pandemic.
Mary Wolicky, Manager, Housing Support Program:
This past year of the pandemic has given me an amazing glimpse into the human condition. Though there were days I wanted to work from home, sit at my dining room table and make tea without disinfecting my hands and putting on a mask first, I am grateful for coming to work pretty much every day for the last year. The greatest gift is having people – staff and tenants – to talk to every day, in-person or on the phone, or an email when they aren’t up for talking. They have kept me afloat. The thoughtfulness of a tenant who, on New Year’s Eve delivered staff a handmade note that said, “thank you for being here.” The personalized art work shared just to show appreciation. The calls to a COVID buddy to vent or laugh or sometimes cry. I am thankful for the good days and the not-so-good days as I know I am stronger for all of it and ready for what the next year brings.
Tara Jewer, Manager, Housing Administration, Woodlawn:
This past year taught us how resilient and focused we can be. At the drop of a hat we could assess where we were at and where we needed to go. It was about finding balance between being at home and being at work. It was about responding to adaptation and change.
Qaiser Khan, Employment/Outreach Counsellor, JUMP Etobicoke:
The biggest lesson learned is that “we” – the world and everyone in it – are very fragile and are all interdependent.
The pandemic reminded me that I was caught in a world spinning at super speed and out of control. It wasn’t until we were forced to slow down, mend our ways and stop running around that we stopped to smell the roses. This year has reminded me that uncertainty was always present, as the present is always uncertain.
Ashfa Darby, Housing Worker, Elm Centre:
The biggest lesson I have learned from a year living and working through a pandemic is stress management skills and the importance of self-care. I have had to juggle increased stress from home and work and raise kids who attend school. As a parent I am tasked with helping them learn how to manage their own anxieties with COVID. I have been working on-site in the shelter throughout this pandemic, which has brought its own daily stresses around balancing personal safety with providing services to participants. I learned to really focus on the things I could control such as PPE use, hand-washing, social distancing and wearing a mask. I have since learned to practice mindfulness around listening to my body and slowing down when needed. I now make time to celebrate myself and accept that I can’t control every variable in my life.
Maria Moutsatsos, Manager 1st Stop Woodlawn and Choices for Living Program:
The biggest lesson I have learned is that this pandemic has highlighted so many pre-existing inequalities. I have also learned that I work alongside an incredibly fierce and dynamic team of individuals who demonstrate incredible strength and teamwork each and every day.
Tammy Hutcheson, Interim Program Manager, Elm Supportive Housing Program:
At various stages throughout the year, I’ve learned different strategies for coping, not only for myself but for my family who have been unable to leave the house this whole time. I am more supportive and flexible, not telling people what I think they need to do based on my perspective but to encourage people to connect with themselves and ask what they need and then support them during this process.
Julia Horel, Manager of Executive Office and Administration:
The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past year is that the small interactions and acts of kindness matter, and that we can’t take them for granted. In a work context, it has become incredibly meaningful to receive a “thank you” email or to have a quick catch-up chat before a Zoom meeting. Many of the small ways we care for one another in a work setting – getting a coffee for someone, holding a door open, asking about a colleague’s child – have dropped off as our ability to meet and linger has been reduced. When we are burnt out on screen time, it doesn’t always occur to us to check in rather than to jump right into business. Those precious moments where we do reach out, do take that extra time to share how we are doing, and do thank one another for our work, have become highlights of my days when they start to run together. I hope not to take these moments for granted when we can work side-by-side again, and to find more moments to acknowledge and appreciate my colleagues any chance I can get.
Image by Glen Carrie on Unsplash.