In the “Through Their Windows” series, presented by TELUS, we are showcasing uplifting and inspiring stories about how the people of Vancouver are spreading kindness and staying connected while maintaining physical distancing in their homes during COVID-19.
Karamjit Bhatti and his wife live in a single family home in the Fleetwood district of Surrey.
Immediately as the stay at home orders spread, Karamjit started to think of how to keep his diverse neighbourhood together. With his resourcefulness and strong community connections, he had the idea to start something virtually.
"We thought about how we can spend our time at home. We got the idea to get all the neighbours to get together online by creating a group called 'Next Door Digest'. We gathered all the neighbours' email addresses and we exchanged our ideas, along with tasks we could help each other with. For example, to spread the word about social distancing, we created posters to distribute around the neighbourhood and made shirts to raise funds for COVID-19 related charities."
To keep spirits up in his neighbourhood during quarantine, Karamjit helped coordinate the neighbours to join in on the nightly cheer for COVID-19 essential services workers.
"We asked everybody to show support for our front-line workers, doctors, nurses, and grocery clerks. We organized everyone to beep their car horns in their front driveways and bang their pots and pans in their backyards at 7 p.m."
During the pandemic, Karamjit and his wife have had lots of time to spend on their home gardening projects. And to stay socially connected and healthy, Karamjit and his neighbours walk 7 to 10 kilometres daily, while keeping their social distance from one another.
Beyond his neighbourhood happenings, Karamjit stays informed about B.C. COVID-19 updates by watching and reading the news and listening to Dr. Bonnie Henry every evening. Through another inventive use of social technology, he has made the effort to stay informed about what's going on around the world within his international circle.
Karamjit Bhatti. Photo: Good Side Photo
"We created an international group chat on Whatsapp to connect with other people in other countries. The group members come from Canada, England, Italy, Dubai, Pakistan, and India. We share how we’re doing, how we’re coping with working from home, and how we’re managing our kids and families at home. We also talk about how our governments are doing with helping the people, and we discuss how many cases there are in our countries."
Karamjit also recognizes how there is a gap in news information for those who do not have ready access to media. Aware of the challenges of certain community members, he initiated another community project to connect those people with assistance.
"International students are facing big challenges. They're staying home and are out of a job. Because most don’t have access to television and other communication channels, they do not have access to the support they need. I created a Whatsapp group for students to spread the word about how they can get help from the government and from the local community. We inform students on announcements from the Canadian government and how they can apply for emergency funds and contact helplines. As well, the Sikh community is distributing food and groceries door to door.”
During the pandemic, Karamjit has been reminded of lessons from growing up in another culture and now sees them applied to Canadian culture, marking a bridge between the old world and the new world today.
"Our new customs, such as washing hands, are customs I’ve learned from my elders years ago in Punjab, India. My grandfather would teach us these practices that I now see people practicing in North American and all over the world.
In the months ahead, Karamjit is committed to practicing public health guidelines and encouraging his neighbours locally and globally to do the same.
“Physically we can be cut off, but if we keep our social distance, we stay connected."
This series has been kindly presented by TELUS. Did you know that they’re waiving home internet overage charges during COVID-19 to help you #stayconnected? Learn more at telus.com/covid19