Coronavirus: How Saskatchewan communities are spreading kindness during a pandemic

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Coronavirus: How Sask. communities are spreading kindness during a pandemic
WATCH: From waving and smiling to delivering groceries, Saskatchewan residents are finding ways to spread joy during the COVID-19 pandemic. – Mar 26, 2020

As people in Saskatchewan self-isolate and socially distance to stop the spread of COVID-19, some are finding creative ways to connect through kindness.

This week in Balgonie, about 28 kilometres east of Regina, two people wearing inflatable T. rex costumes were spotted walking around the small town.

“We kind of thought we needed to get our T. rexes out and about just to lift everyone’s spirit,” said Ashley Austman, executive director of the Balgonie Early Learning Centre.

She said the centre’s staff, dealing with job uncertainty and missing the kids, mapped out a route stopping by the homes of kids who would normally be in their care.

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“We just hit the road and started walking and knocked on everybody’s windows,” said Austman, who has since seen video taken by parents of the kids reacting happily to their visits.

“Having that small-town community come together with something as simple as dinosaurs strutting around town is great.”

Ashley Austman, centre, and two fellow staff members from the Balgonie Early Learning Centre are trying to lift spirits while the small town works through a global pandemic. Daniella Ponticelli / Global News

Austman said the licensed early learning centre’s 52 spots were full until COVID-19 cases appeared in Saskatchewan. Now, they’re caring for 10 children.

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“The 10 that we have are mainly for our essential workers,” she said.

“There are a few others, too, who just don’t have the option to work from home. So we’re definitely here for those little ones.”

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On Thursday, the T. rexes also made a special stop at a nearby seniors’ home.

They waved and held up signs from the street before moving to the window to high-five residents through the glass.

“They just need something to lift their spirits,” Austman said of the residents. “We’re going to continue on until this is all over.”

Sikh community launches grocery program

Regina’s Sikh community has also stepped up to offer help to those in need.

The University of Regina’s Sikh Student Association, in partnership with the local Sikh community, is delivering groceries to residents in the area who lack the means to do so themselves.

The group is also offering to provide cooked meals for those who are sick or injured.

“If we can help each other, in this moment in time, anything is possible. The idea was to raise that hope,” said Jaspal Singh, a member of the student association.

The group has already delivered its first grocery packages, which contain bread, milk, cereals, canned soups among other staples.

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Singh said the program is open to people of all faiths. Priority is being given to being those with medical conditions, students who haven’t worked in the last three months and the elderly.

The Sikh community provided the initial funding, but the program has received food donations from outside organizations and is co-ordinating private donations by phone.

The Everyday Kitchen, a bakery in Regina, has set up online ordering with curbside pickup and delivery options.

The small business has indefinitely committed to donating 100 per cent of its profits  to the following local social services: Regina Food Bank, Souls Harbour Rescue Mission and Carmichael Outreach.

“We’re going to keep doing this until things kind of either improve in the city or until we run out of money,” said Mark Schmelinski, who owns The Everyday Kitchen with his wife.

“We wanted to make sure that people who really need help right now are getting the help they need.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers across Canada are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. In Saskatchewan, international travellers are already required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the province.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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