By Sylvie Lauzon….
Sitting down to write this piece has proven difficult. The prompt of caring for each other under quarantine instantly takes me to a headspace that I do not want to be in. It has been hard caring for families and friends from afar, or from six feet apart, to be exact. The other day, a friend stood across the street as they teared up recalling a terrible morning. I had to fight the urge to hug them and move closer to provide some ounce of comfort. Instead, all I could do was say, “I’m here for you.” But that didn’t feel like enough.
My ability to fully feel like I am caring for others has been impacted in my work as well. I work as a home-visiting case manager with families with children ages 0-5. Pre shelter-in-place, my ability to care was not limited to space—I could encourage positive parenting in families’ homes, advocate for a client to access governmental financial support at a social services office, or hold a client’s hand in the clinic as they spoke with a provider about their reproductive options. On March 13th, my department made the tough decision to stop all face-to-face contact with our families, opting instead for telephone sessions to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
Over the past couple of weeks, the needs of the families I work with have changed dramatically. While each family’s needs are typically unique, one need has been consistent—the ability to access diapers and baby wipes. Parents have had to decide between paying rent or paying for diapers. They’ve waited in line at Costco for hours, only to get to the baby wipes section to find it cleared out. Typically, I would provide information for the local diaper pantry, but diaper pantries are far and few between in south Alameda County, and those that have stayed open are also dealing with low supply and high demand.
Being a case manager with few resources in a pandemic is not the ideal position to be in. So, in a half-hearted effort to address the need, I wrote a quick post to my community:
Hello Neighbors! My name is Sylvie and I currently work as a case manager for Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center in south Alameda County. My department works with low income families with children 0-5. We assist our families with applying to social services as well as teaching positive parenting skills and child development.
Due to COVID 19 alongside financial hardships, our families are in desperate need of diapers and baby wipes. I wanted to reach out to see if anyone had some extra supplies on hand that they would be willing to donate to our organization to distribute to families in need. If you are willing to, please feel free to message me. Thank you for your support and I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these hard times.❤️
I say half-hearted because I really did not think people would respond. I thought it would be an easy post to ignore amongst the numerous cries for help in the community and the unrelenting reminders to practice social distancing. Thankfully, I was wrong. The response from my community was unbelievable. Within a matter of days, people across the Bay Area along with friends and family, had donated over 5,000 diapers and wipes to our organization. I was (and still am) speechless by people’s support. One person, who I had never met before, even sent me $50 to buy wipes on their behalf. I was reminded that though caring for each other under quarantine is hard (and feels nearly impossible), it does not mean people don’t care—they do.
I wanted to share this story because it is impossible not to feel the intense mental and emotional impact of social distancing. This pandemic is isolating in so many ways. But I think we need to remind ourselves that we are not alone in this. Now more than ever, we need to reach out for support and ask for help—which I know for myself is difficult to do. Recently, I have taken to reminding myself every day that we can be there for each other without physically being there for each other. My hope is that this whole-hearted effort persists past this pandemic because regardless of what is going on in the world, it is human connection and compassion that makes it all worth it.