Lasagna Lady: cooking 1,200 pans for strangers in need

Soon after getting laid off during the pandemic, Michelle Brenner first turned to comfort food—using her grandmother’s special recipe, she made a huge pan of lasagna. Then, she offered to go grocery shopping for some friends and was dismayed that they had all added frozen lasagnas to their lists. Her culinary mind screamed, “This just won’t do at all!”

Picture from Good News Network

The Italian-American posted on Facebook, letting her friends and neighbors know that she could whip up some homemade goodness for them—all they had to do was ask, and come by to pick it up. She received her $1,200 government stimulus check, and used all of it to buy ingredients for her cooking. She has made over 1,200 pans of lasagna—no questions asked—for anybody who wants one. She then began dropping them off for essential workers at the local police and fire departments, the hospital, and even the prison.

In order to scale up her operation, she set up a fundraiser on Facebook to support her work. Before long, it had raised more than $22,000, mostly from strangers on Facebook from all corners of the world. She says this will enable her to continue cooking for several months. “The world as we know it is falling apart, but my two little hands are capable of making a difference,” Brenner told the Washington Post. “I can’t change the world, but I can make lasagna.” To support Brenner’s initiative, click here!

Story shared by Brandon Miller, United States of America

More info here or at bmiller2@bsu.edu

A hi-tech School Class under the Bridge

For months during the pandemic, the people of India woke up to news regarding the plight of migrant laborers. Stranded on their way home due to stringent lockdown restrictions and the lack of basic amenities brought us harrowing tales of human suffering. However, the news also spurred heroes into action. Under the bridge in the coastal state of Kerala, a heartening sight awaits those who are passing by in Kochi, India. Underneath the Bolgatty-Vallarpadam bridge, teachers can be found engrossed with students of all ages, deep in study.

Hitech class for migrant children
Picture retrieved from Mathrubhumi

Ten children of migrant laborers had been living under the bridge with their families. Now that temporary ‘home’ is doubling up as a classroom, thanks to the dedicated teachers of St. John Bosco’s UP School. Armed with laptops and drawing sets, three teachers—Shamiya Baby, Neema Thomas and Susan Mable—and the school headmistress Elizabeth Fernandez, came to the rescue. Since the beginning of June, when online classes officially began, these teachers have been downloading classes on their laptops and heading over to the bridge to teach the children. They also carry masks, biscuits and sweets for the young kids every day.

This touching story from India shows that commitment and creativity can turn a poor and low-tech environment into a hi-tech opportunity for the youngest in need.

Story shared by Joseph Ance Treesa, India.

More info here or at bmiller2@bsu.edu

LifeSchoolHouse: barter-based folkschools in Canada

We have launched a network of barter-based folkschools to support grassroots community leaders in convening skills-sharing workshops as a means to reduce social isolation and loneliness. We have offered more than 1000 workshops in less than 3 years and our work has become even more important in our community with the rise of Covid and it’s associated social restrictions. Our volunteer-based organization has mobilized in-person and online workshops, emergency community food pantries, makers swaps and meal drives using the assets in the community to support a more resilient and interconnected world.

LifeSchoolHouse

We asked 150 people what benefits they received from LifeSchoolHouse programming and they said “Enjoyment and happiness” – 90.2%, “Creativity and idea sharing” – 86.9%, “Sense of community / neighbourliness” – 88.5% , “Meeting new people” – 75.4%, and “Social connection and friendship” – 75.4%.

We started with less than $5 in hand and ran workshops for MONTHS using this barter-based approach of asking for what we need and offering what we have. For instance, when we needed mason jars to teach a preservation workshop to reduce food insecurity by teaching an essential skill, we received tangible inkind donations of 100’s of jars from folks around the community – enough to keep us going for months! Our community has embraced this inclusive approach and run with it to create spin off caremongering activities and events for the community and the work continues to grow everyday.

Story shared by Jennifer DeCoste, Canada

More info here or at jennifer@lifeschoolhouse.com

The Write Time Pen Pal Project

A pen pal project between older adults in long-term care facilities and other older adults in churches was implemented in order to help them feel more connected, especially now with COVID-19. Older adults can have difficulties with feeling socially isolated. Two churches and two long-term care facilities in the Huntsville, Alabama area participated.

I do not completely know the outcome because the project was not fully implemented due to COVID-19. The older adults from the churches sent letters to those in the long-term care facilities, but they did not receive any letters back. I plan to continue this project.

One surprise was that no replies at all were received by the participants in the churches from the long-term care facility residents. I expected there to be at least a few responses back. A lesson learned is sometimes things take more time than it is thought it will take.

Story shared by Kelsey Walker, United States of America

More info at kelsey0711@gmail.com

Mutual Support for the Elderly

Seventy-nine elderly members of Kiboino were provided with food, masks, and cleaning supplies during the first several months of the covid-19 pandemic. This was done by a community member, Stephen Sergon, who now resides in Washington, DC U.S. Kiboino is a very low-income community, and weather conditions exacerbate food insecurity. When the pandemic hit, Stephen says he first thought about his elderly mum’s safety but then remembered other elderly persons with no one to turn to. Stephen then provided the money. And through the community elders and the village storekeeper’s coordination, the elderly members were identified and given the supplies.

Picture sent Stephen Sergon. See more pictures here

The elderly and vulnerable members of the community had food to last them for several days. They also had face masks to protect them from the coronavirus as well as cleaning supplies to boost hygiene. Besides, these elders talked about feeling happy and cared for by the gesture. This was expressed in the videos that were taken and shared. In addition, purchasing these suppliers from the village store had a positive impact on the village economy.

What one considers to be little or insignificant can mean a lot and makes a huge difference to someone who must choose between buying something to eat or soap. For these vulnerable people in Kiboino village to get soap, food and masks was their biggest joy. They were so gracious that they shed tears of joy.

Story shared by Stephen Sergon, Kenya

More info at sergonsteve@yahoo.com

Simultaneously write at home and display our poems in the street

I used to participate in a writing workshop and, with the lockdown, we couldn’t get together any more. The facilitator then had the idea of having us write in a common time shared, each at home, and then, during the night, to go and display our poems in the streets of our town or village.

Writing alone at home, I felt the connection with the other people who participated in this experience. It was amazing! Then, by night, I posted my writings on a mobile panel in my village. After two days, someone from the town hall moved the sign but did not remove the poster.

This event taught me that in a common project, we can feel the presence of others from a distance and that the limitations to our freedom of movement can generate unexpected creative initiatives. I don’t think I would have dared to display my poems in the street without this exceptional event.

Story shared by Corinne-Lara Tilloy, France

More info at corinne.tilloy@sfr.fr

Be Elevated! Meet your Loved-Ones in Nursing Homes During Lock-Down from Outside

During Lock-Down nursing homes and hospitals in many countries had to restrict access for visitors and relatives. This causes a lot of isolation and psychological pain both for relatives, patients and residents. An unusual solution has been found for visitors who have been keen enough to get uplifted on to the fourth floor of the buildings from outside. One of the largest suppliers for professional working platforms offered some of their more than 2000 rental working platforms as an innovative visiting device.

Picture by Stephan Rumpf

They place easy-to-use electrical working platforms in front of selected nursing homes. Visitors who wish to communicate with their mother, grandfather or other relatives living in nursing homes, but cannot get access to the rooms due to COVID-19 hygiene restrictions, are invited to get uplifted via the working platform with the help of technical professionals. This is how social isolation in nursing homes and hospitals can be prevented to a certain degree in times of heavy restrictions.

‘Be Elevated’ is a good example for creative partnerships between business and non-profit organizations in times of need. Both parts use their strengths and flexibility to find unexpected solutions for people in need. The example may inspire openness to experiment and co-create innovative solutions linking unusual partners.

Story shared by Wolfgang Stark, Germany

More info here or at wolfgang.stark@stw.de

25th of November: International Day for the Elimination of Gender Violence against women and girls

ECPA (European Association of Community Psychologists) and EFPA Community Psychology standing committee, join the UN in celebrating the 25th of November as a worldwide International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women and propose and propose all EFPA members and affiliated associations to join them.

Psychological consequences of gender violence are sometimes more serious than its physical effects. The experience of continuing abuse erodes women’s self esteem and increases the risk of a variety
of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, suicide, self harm, cutting, alcohol and drug abuse, and other forms of distress, and reduced confidence in parenting skills (i.e., lack of emotional support for their children and responding adequately to their needs).

Psychologists are active in psychological assessment, risk evaluation and support of women and girls who have been victimized by gender violence and work also with children who witness domestic violence, and the orphans of femicide (Carnevale et al., 2020). 

With a focus on preventive interventions, psychologists actively participate in programmes to prevent violence in schools promoting gender equality education in behaviour and socio-emotional education; preventive interventions are offered also in the community, targeting sport clubs and youth organizations. They also work with young offenders and bullies, considering that some of the offenders themselves might have also been victimized. 

Psychologists also support volunteer work and organizations against violence, providing consultation, training and supporting the organization of self-help and advocacy groups and coordinated community response. They provide research based evidence for the advancement of support services and community initiatives that can contribute to the survivor’s empowerment and recovery (Albanesi et al., under review, Shorey, et al. 2014).

Psychology Professionals play major roles in emergency units, crisis intervention houses and other support services in many European countries, and have a central role in judicial procedures, including juvenile courts, criminal and civil courts for their expertise in legal psychology, especially required in procedural and regulatory requirements against perpetrators of violence involving families, including children and youth. Finally, psychologists play a role in juvenile and adult prisons, with their diagnostic and therapeutic-reparative function towards detained offenders.

EFPA points out the importance of giving health professionals, both in hospital settings and in general practice, the skills and training to increase their awareness and understanding of the forms and dynamics of domestic violence and gender violence, and to develop procedures for handling such cases in the most effective way (Di Napoli et al., 2019; Procentese et al., 2020).

Appropriate tools for violence screening and intervention are still lacking in most health facilities, especially in emergency departments where the largest number of women victims of violence by intimate partners are observed, but where medical observations are limited to assessing only physical damages (Glass et al., 2001; Sprague et al., 2016).

Psychologists could have more prominent roles in the emergency departments (ED) where women come with severe injuries. Here the link between injuries and domestic violence is rarely recognised (Matoori, Khurana, Balcom et al., 2020). 

Recent reviews (Sprague et al., 2018; Ogbe et al., 2020) suggest that training programmes, and the use of  shared procedures and protocols  between different stakeholders (e.g. police forces, justice authorities, health and social services, support services etc.) relating to identifying and managing assault cases, and injury screening have significant effects on the identification of abused women and on a correct response to their needs. The psychological report in cases of domestic violence is useful for identifying and predicting domestic violence and its effects on health.  

European psychologists mark this UN international day in all professional circumstances; association, training, clinical and social service, welfare, educational and prevention projects and interventions.

Psychologists have a role in supporting social, education and health personnel who take care of victims of violence in recognition of their competences in working for the constitution of safe and respectful environments where women can freely express themselves. 

Psychologists have appropriate tools to plan, implement and evaluate interventions and programs to support women’s empowerment and to educate younger generations to more respectful gender relations.

Beside working to support women’s resilience during pandemic times, psychologists keep warning the institutions of the increased risks that the pandemic entails on women (e.g., stress related to work life balance, job insecurity) and on victims of domestic violence (violence escalation, reduced support), as part of their professional and civic responsibility.

As psychologists we need to be aware of the increasing risk of domestic violence in pandemic forced cohabitation and to propose measures that sustain community efforts to fight intimate domestic violence. A strong sense of community is celebrating the community’s capacity for collective help to individuals. A sense of being a resource for victims of domestic violence. 

Associations’ contact information   

Contact persons

  • Cinzia Albanesi – President of ECPA (European Community Psychology Association) 
  • Nicholas Carr – Convenor of EFPA Standing Committee on Community Psychology 
  • Caterina Arcidiacono – ECPA member and EFPA Standing Committee on Community Psychology

References

AA.VV. (2020) (special issue) Violence against women in the COVID-19 emergency, La Camera Blu, 22  http://www.camerablu.unina.it/index.php/camerablu/issue/view/513

Albanesi C., Tomasetto C., Guardabassi V. (2020) Evaluating interventions with victims of intimate partner violence: a community psychology approach (under review) BMC, Women’s Health

Autiero, M., Procentese, F., Carnevale, S., Arcidiacono, C. and Di Napoli I. (2020) Combatting Intimate Partner Violence: Representations of Social and Healthcare Personnel Working with Gender-Based Violence Interventions. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 5543; doi:10.3390/ijerph17155543 

Bjørnholt, M. (2019). The social dynamics of revictimization and intimate partner violence: an embodied, gendered, institutional and life course perspective. Nordic Journal of Criminology, 20(1), 90. doi:10.1080/14043858.2019.1568103 

Carnevale, S.; Di Napoli, I.; Esposito, C.; Arcidiacono, C.; Procentese, F. Children Witnessing Domestic Violence in the Voice of Health and Social Professionals Dealing with Contrasting Gender Violence. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 4463. [CrossRef] [PubMed] 

Di Napoli, I., Procentese, F., Carnevale, S., Esposito, C. & Arcidiacono, C. (2019). Ending Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and Locating Men at Stake: An Ecological Approach. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 1652; doi:10.3390/ijerph16091652 

Glass, N., Dearwater, S., & Campbell, J. (2001). Intimate partner violence screening and intervention: data from eleven Pennsylvania and California community hospital emergency departments. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 27(2), 141-149.

Hauge, M. I., & Kiamanesh, P. (2019). Mothering and everyday life during and in the aftermath of domestic violence among women with immigrant backgrounds in Norway. Child & Family Social Work. doi:10.1111/cfs.12710

Matoori, S., Khurana, B., Balcom, M.C. et al. Intimate partner violence crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic: how can radiologists make a difference? Eur Radiol 30, 6933–6936 (2020). https://doi-org.ezproxy.unibo.it/10.1007/s00330-020-07043-w

Ogbe, E., Harmon, S., Van den Bergh, R., & Degomme, O. (2020). A systematic review of intimate partner violence interventions focused on improving social support and/mental health outcomes of survivors. PLoS one, 15(6), e0235177.

Procentese F., Fasanelli R., Carnevale S., Esposito C., Pisapia N., Arcidiacono C., and Di Napoli I.,(2020) Downside: The Perpetrator of Violence in the Representations of Social and Health Professionals. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 7061; doi:10.3390/ijerph17197061

Shorey, R. C., Tirone, V., & Stuart, G. L. (2014). Coordinated community response components for victims of intimate partner violence: A review of the literature. Aggression and violent behavior, 19(4), 363-371.

Sprague, S., Swaminathan, A., Slobogean, G. P., Spurr, H., Arseneau, E., Raveendran, L., … & Bhandari, M. (2018). A scoping review of intimate partner violence educational programs for health care professionals. Women & health, 58(10), 1192-1206.

Sprague, S., Slobogean, G. P., Spurr, H., McKay, P., Scott, T., Arseneau, E., … & Swaminathan, A. (2016). A scoping review of intimate partner violence screening programs for health care professionals. PloS one, 11(12), e0168502.

Other useful resources:

https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/05/brief-prevention-violence-against-women-and-girls-and-covid-19

https://eige.europa.eu/gender-based-violence/risk-assessment-risk-management

Contrasting gender violence: a community psychology perspective

Webinar with Caterina Arcidiacono, November 26, 5pm (CET Time)

About the webinar

This webinar is aimed to present a community psychology vision of sexual and gender violence against women. In the frame of the Istanbul convention, there is the need to recall meanings and procedures in an ecological approach to gender violence (Di Napoli et al, 2019). Frequently psychologists are deepening the individual or at least the systemic perspective, but are not taking into account all the implications of the joint effects of cultural, organizational relational and individual impact of this phenomenon.

Effects of Covid-19 home lockdown on domestic and assisted violence are then at stake. Intimate partner violence is affected by this protracted and forced cohabitation and psychologists have to be able to understand and to intervene.

Moreover, assuming that violence against women is in term of violation of women right to self-determination in this moment, at European level there is the need to be aware of the Polish situation where women self-determination is heavily undermined by the recent provisions on abortion.

This year the 25th of November, the UN day to celebrate women fight against gender violence will be supported on the 26 November 2020 by an ECPA webinar focusing on psychological knowledge and actions to prevent and contrast violence against women.

About the presenter

Caterina Arcidiacono is a psychologist, Jungian analyst (IAAP – International Association for Analytical Psychology). Full Professor of Community Psychology. Former Coordinator of the PhD Course in Gender Studies, of Federico II University of Naples. Past President of ECPA (European Community Psychology Association). She is founder of ENCP (European Network of Community Psychologists) and ECPA (European Community Psychology Association). Currently member of the EFPA standing Committee on Community Psychology.

She organized the first Italian scientific workshop on Women and gender Identity (FrancoAngeli Editore, 1990). Her peculiar research’ areas concern the woman-man relationship with special reference to gender asymmetry and gender violence, community psychology competencies, well-being, power asymmetry,  intercultural dialogue, and migration. Director of the international online gender journal: La Camera Blu. She is co-director of the online international journal: Community Psychology in Global Perspective (CPGP) and co-editor of the IJERPH  special issue: Gender Violence Against Women: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, Policies.

The presenter can be contacted at caterina.arcidiacono@unina.it or by skype: caterina_arcidiacono

Participation at the event is free of charge, but registration is compulsory. Please click here to register.

A virtual arts festival to raise the spirits of people in a neighbourhood

In our neighbourhood, a place called Chorlton, in Manchester, UK, we (a group of residents, chaired by me a community psychologist) organise a community arts festival every year. This year, after planning and scheduling over 200 artists to engage in creative activities across 60 community places, we had to cancel. Then a local resident came along and offered to curate a digital or virtual festival. This went ahead in October. We worked with 20 of the original artists to prepare virtual galleries, and virtual streets of Chorlton, learning as we went, and opening the festival to all.

Over a 3 day period, residents visited galleries, specially created ‘rooms (one about art-from-rubbish in a rubbish bin!), listened to virtuoso performances and bands on a large screen in a festival field where they could also chat with each other, played games in the virtual streets – and all of this virtual – and free! There were activities for all ages and embraced many different cultures.

Whilst the festival had no barriers to inclusion, of course digital capability was an issue – Like everything else in this COVID year, digital inclusion enabled participation but exclusion did the opposite. If people could not attend uring the 3 day festival, they could access the virtual worlds afterwards. As follow up activities the virtual festival field and local streets were transformed for Halloween. In recognition that not only was digital exclusion an issue, but navigating the virtual worlds was challenging for anyone over the age of 25, we have mounted some learning opportunities in collaboration with a local college.

Story and pictures shared by Carolyn Kagan, United Kingdom.

For more info here or please contact at cmkagan@gmail.com