Edmontonians volunteer time, talents to help each other through pandemic

As Edmontonians observe the rules of social distancing meant to stop COVID-19, something else is spreading in the community — kindness.

From practical to holistic supports, volunteers are donating their time and talents to lift each other up.

Within days, a Facebook page called YEG Community Response to COVID-19 has ballooned to more than 9,000 members who can request and offer help with grocery runs, childcare and dwindling supplies like toilet paper.

The group has teamed up with the Edmonton Food Bank to dispatch food hampers as it seeks more volunteers to drive, and provide mental health and administrative support. 

To actually put your human effort into that, for another person who you don’t know, speaks volumes about the people in this city and how much we care about one another.​– Freda Ballantyne

“To actually put your human effort into that, for another person who you don’t know, speaks volumes about the people in this city and how much we care about one another,” said Freda Ballantyne, one of the group’s administrators.

Kid’s College opened two weeks ago but shifted gears when the province closed all childcare centres

Now Doaa Alnajjar and her team of volunteers are distributing free masks, hand sanitizer and grocery delivery services to seniors and people self-isolating in the surrounding communities of Westmount, Inglewood and Queen Mary Park. The centre has partnered with a bidet supplier providing complimentary installations.

 “Most of the population are low income and young families,” said Alnajjar. “We have a decent number of seniors in two of the communities around us. So we think our services will be needed.”

‘A safe place to turn to’

Free Footie, a free soccer program for youth, is holding live sessions daily at noon and 4 p.m. on Facebook and Instagram. 

“We’re really working on building some sessions that are fun, involve physical literacy, social, emotional and mental health,” said founder Tim Adams. “Just really trying to stay connected to our community so kids know they still have a safe place to turn to, because sometimes home isn’t the safest place.”

When the virus put a stop to her mobile yoga studio that operates in schools and daycares, Robyn Snow, owner of Glow Yoga Kids, launched a week of free classes on YouTube.

“It’s more important now than ever, which is why we’re trying to offer an option that’s going to be accessible for people while they’re stuck at home,” Snow said.

Glow Yoga Kids is offering free classes on YouTube this week. (Glow Yoga Kids)

‘Incredible opportunity’

Local SATTVA yoga teachers are also streaming free classes on Instagram. Founder Rameen Peyrow leads meditation on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. while practitioners can tune into Andrew Misle’s daily morning live stream called “9 a.m. Boost”: a 30-minute yoga practice followed by a chat.

Geha Gonthier, a registered acupuncturist and owner of Wellness on Whyte, is offering daily qigong exercises, also on Instagram.  

“And now, being in this position of social distancing, it’s actually an incredible opportunity for us to go inward, and through meditation, through yoga, through ways that inspire us, we give ourselves food, that helps us be stronger,” Gonthier said.

Edmonton yoga teachers Andrew Misle and Geha Gonthier are leading free yoga and Qi Gong practices on Instagram. (Andrew Misle)

Edmontonians looking to chill out can join musician and yoga instructor Kevin Gaudette, aka the Gongfather, for a free, virtual ‘sound bath’ on Saturday at 10 a.m. via Zoom. Anyone interested can contact Gaudette directly.

Enjoy the soothing sounds of the gong with Kevin Gaudette on Saturday at 10 am. (Kevin Gaudette)

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