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

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

Interviewing Neighbors During COVID Brought Her Light “When Things Seemed So Dark.”

Just like everywhere else, COVID-19 came to the small town of Leverett, Massachusetts. And when the town went into lockdown, Jinny Savolainen wanted to do something meaningful. Quarantine was especially isolating for her. In 2019, Jinny lost her daughter. And when the pandemic hit, she lost her job. So, she sent an email to the town listserv asking if anyone wanted to record remote StoryCorps interviews about their life during COVID. StoryCorps is an organization whose mission is to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. These Leverett stories were then broadcast on NationalPubicRadio.

Portia Weiskel, a beloved town fixture for more than 50 years spoke with Jinny about a quirky quarantine tradition of a weekly howl at the Leverett Pond that started in lockdown and can be heard throughout the town. Mary Hankinson, a nurse at a long-term care facility, realized when the pandemic first hit how hard it was to access personal protective equipment. She coordinated a group of almost a dozen women who volunteered to make masks. They were hung on a rack outside the post office, where anyone could pick one up for free. Hundreds of these masks were made.

Image from Storycorps

Jinny states “I believe our grandchildren [and] great-grandchildren will want to know how we fared during this pandemic,” “I think they will be in awe of the way Leverett has come together, in the kindest, most humble of ways.” What started with one email ended in a collection of over a dozen interviews.Taken together, these conversations paint a picture of small town life and community during an unprecedented time. As Jinny put it, “Just when things seemed so dark, I found some light in the words of the people all around me.”

Story shared by Tom Wolff, from Massachusetts, USA.

More info here or at tom@tomwolff.com

Culture Delivery Service

Musicians had no possibility for events, shows and concerts and therefore no income during the lockdown. In Munich they were featured by the so called “Kulturlieferdienst” (Culture Delivery Service) organizing little pop-up concerts in the streets, registered as demonstrations for culture.

Kulturlieferdienst Munich

People had fun joining the spontaneous happening in front of their house, giving donations to the musicians.

The street stage is a real win win situation for everybody!

Story shared by Ina Laux, Germany

More info here or at info@lauxarchitekten.com