By Nea Maaty
– St. James Town Press, November 2021 edition – 

In this episode of St. James Town TV, we feature the Weathering the Storm research report. The report was prepared for The Corner and the St. James Town Service Providers Network by Lisa Kowalchuk, a professor of sociology at the University of Guelph.  Lisa Kowalchuk’s team of researchers included community residents Priyal Goenka, Tanvir Kaukab, and Lovlyn Dsouza. 

The aim of the study was to determine how the Covid-19 pandemic played out in the highly diverse and densely populated community of St. James Town. The study focused on three demographics: youth, newcomers and other immigrants, and seniors.

According to Kowalchuk and her team, in the area of children and youth, the study found that parents with infants and pre-teen children reported lockdown impacts that affected child development such as the lack of social interactions and gaining of learning experiences because of the disruption of day-care and the closure of recreational family outing options. Parents of special needs children found that online interactions were sorely inadequate substitutes for programs and classes, and were witnessing distressing emotional fallout in their children. The adolescents and young adults in the sample experienced lay-offs from newly attained jobs, self-development projects stalled or lost, and being cut off from socialization outlets.

In the area of newcomers and immigrants, according to the findings of the study, income loss was one of the most disturbing impacts on emotional wellbeing as newcomers have relatively thin local social networks to turn to for support. Another impact on newcomer and immigrant wellbeing was the suspension of long-planned, long-awaited travel to countries of origin. The pandemic also imposed considerable job- and income-related pressures on immigrants in terms of employment instability. 

Another demographic that was severely affected was seniors. The most prominent and troubling effects were increased isolation and loneliness due to the loss of programs and activities for socializing, intensified food insecurity, and other effects of the loss of in-person support such as Personal Support Workers (PSWs).

Despite the difficulties many people experienced as a result of the pandemic including food insecurity, loneliness, financial and economic challenges results indicated the neighbourhood recorded a noticeable degree of bonding and support. Individuals and groups in the area came together to ensure those in need had support, opportunities for connections, food banks and programming. 

Watch this episode of St. James Town TV news to hear from Kowalchuk and her team on how the St. James Town neighbourhood weathered the storm.

https://youtu.be/0Z4bjzXtZQM

To read the report click on this link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/d70ui3skz0fqnlf/Weathering%20The%20Storm%20Sept8%202021.pdf?dl=0

Nea Maaty is a journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre ~ a partnership with the St. James Town Corner