There can be times that you may feel that the world has become a strange place, a place that you don’t really understand or know from past experience. The Covid-19 pandemic is one such experience for me. I had heard a lot about this novel coronavirus, months before it arrived in Cyprus but couldn’t even imagine what was about to happen in a matter of days.
Even though my emotions around the situation are disordered, I can still recall the first days from the
discovery of the first coronavirus cases to the full lockdown quite clearly. I can recall going to my gym and being unable to enter as one of the trainers opened the door and informed me that the gym was closing down because of the coronavirus cases and that he didn’t know how long this was going to last. The gym I was subscribed to, was one of the first to close around the island, days before the initial lockdown measures were even announced.
I remember leaving the spot and wondering “What is going on? Is this an overreaction? Is this going to get worse? How will I keep on exercising?” The days that followed were even more puzzling. The gyms around my area remained open, people were continuing life as usual until the first preventative measures were announced. People were told they needed to stay at home as much as possible, many retail stores, gyms, and malls were closed down as well as restaurants and bars. In addition, citizens were required to get special permission to leave the house and were initially allowed up to 3 exceptions (per day) to leave their residential address. Of course, people did not find it easy to immediately adjust and either ignored the measures or tried to cheat the system. The results were as expected, we had a significant daily increase in cases which drove the country in one direction, the official lockdown was introduced just a week later.
I’m not going to address if the measures taken were exaggerated, which I believe they were, but
considering Cyprus’s fragile health system, prevention was the only solution as neither the hospitals nor doctors or nurses were prepared for a pandemic and consumable PPE was not adequately available.
I felt strongly that this health crisis was an opportunity for individual growth and an opportunity
for providing support in any way I was able too. It was during this time that I was browsing my Facebook feed, trying to restructure my daily routine (as the 3 exceptions per day were indeed limiting)I came across a post on Facebook by the commissioner of volunteerism and NGO’s Mr. Yiannis Yiannaki. I remember that I instinctively applied and also shared the post to my friends so anyone willing to offer his help would be provided with a contact medium.
In the following couple of days I received a call and was informed that I could help the Ad-Hoc contact center that was being set up at the premises of the ex Laiki Sporting Club in coordination with Reaction. I accepted immediately and in the following days, I agreed to start working as a volunteer in the management of the center.
During my 66 days at the center, I was lucky enough to have worked with a lot of commendable like-minded people, to offer support to at-risk individuals who potentially could have experienced serious health complications if they had got infected by the Coronavirus. I remember that everyone at the center was feeling the fear that the virus could infect us all at any moment but overwhelmingly everyone felt that our duty was to address the needs of the at-risk people and to provide them with the needed supplies of food and medication, was more important than our own fears concerning the virus.
And thankfully we survived perfectly fine, we were fortunate that none of us got sick during the
time of the crisis, everyone had access to protective gloves and masks and we were also tested for the coronavirus.
These 66 days were an opportunity to help others by offering support in the preparation of the supermarket orders to reach people in need. It was also an opportunity to meet new people who shared the same passion for volunteerism and I was able to keep my clarity of thought during the difficult times. Eventually, I believe that volunteerism during these times helped me more than the help I was able to provide to people in need. And for that, I will always be thankful!
Thankful because coronavirus enabled me to see life from a different perspective. Thankful to other people for offering their time and effort voluntarily to help others and thankful to life for surviving yet another challenge that has changed me for the better!