It has been almost a week since the public health authorities announced school closures and the number of residents isolating is in the thousands.
Through the challenges of the latest COVID-19 outbreak, Yellowknifers continue to rally around one another for support.
When Brie O’Keefe heard about the partial lockdown, she thought first about the students who might not fully understand the new set of rules. Having an 11-year-old step-daughter herself, O’Keefe wanted to reach out to households to show support to families in isolation.
Enter isolation advent calendars.
Rather than one or two bigger presents, O’Keefe filled her Walmart cart with little gifts and toys costing $2 to $3 to create advent calendars “counting down the days to when we can get back to normal life.” She wrapped them in newspaper with a letter indicating that if recipients continued to do their best everyday, they could unwrap a new present. She delivered the gifts to some friends with young children and posted the idea to Facebook to share with others.
O’Keefe said the isolation news first made her “so angry to be in this situation” but the advent calendars felt like a way to distract herself, and direct her energies towards something more positive.
“Otherwise we will just become super negative and get lost in the frustration of the situation instead of concentrating on ways that we can get through it,” she said. “Yellowknife is so close-knit, and we are going to get through it.”
Eamonn and Aine O’Reilly, 9 and 6, are among the recipients of the advent calendars.
Seeing what’s next to unwrap has been “something to look forward to everyday,” Eamonn said.
They’ve so far found stickers, sidewalk chalk and a card game among their treasures, but their favourite has been a light-up baton. Since the ends of the batons bear resemblance to the coronavirus molecule, Eamonn and Aine’s mother Jessica Simpson, said that the siblings love playing “pass the coronavirus.”
“It’s good to have a sense of humour about these things,” Simpson said.
While she said her kids have been adjusting to isolation, her daughter in particular has been struggling with the distance from her friends and grandparents.
“Having someone drop off gifts makes her feel like she still matters,” Simpson said. “It’s important to help each other and lift each other’s spirits in times like these because you never know what’s happening in different households.”
After posting the idea on the Hell Yeah Yellowknife Facebook group, O’Keefe said others seemed interested in following suit.
In putting together her most recent kit, she noticed some of the toy shelves where she had been buying the gifts were empty. A sign, she hopes, that the idea is catching on.
O’Keefe’s kits are just one of the ways Yellowknifers are helping each other through this pandemic flare up.
After school isolation measures were announced, another Facebook group – NJ MacPherson Isolation volunteers – community support – cropped up to buy and deliver groceries and lend a hand to those in isolation. The group, started May 2, is now almost 500 members strong.
As some people are hesitant to ask for help, O’Keefe is reminding residents to reach out to friends and family “who might need a pick me up.”