Community Pods in Regent Park During the COVID-19 pandemic social distancing has been an incredible success in combating the spread. However, the lack of social interaction is proven to negatively impact people's mental health. During these times it is important for communities to find safe ways to socialize and one effective method is the Regent Park Pods Initiative. Neighbourhood Pods are a safe way to support and meet neighbors online through Facebook groups, WhatsApp and other online chat rooms. Throughout the pandemic people have used the pods not only to socialize but to share resources as well. Whether it be extra food or offering to pick up someone's groceries, pods have been a productive way to grow communities safely during the pandemic. Regent Park residents, Nayeon Kim and Maseeda Majeed, initiated one of three pods currently operating in Regent Park. Both Nayeon and Maseeda are a part of the Regent Park Social Development Planning table which is where the two first met and eventually realized they were neighbors. Coming to the realization that they lived on the same street for a few years without knowing each other, they wanted to find a way to strengthen their community. Thus, giving birth to the pods . Inspired by a similar imitative in Parkdale, Nayeon and Meseeda began spreading the word about the pods to others on their street. Their method for getting the word out was very simple and effective : Maseeda and Nayeon put up flyers on their street with information about the pods including their contact information. When asked if they would recommend other communities starting their own pods, Maseda said, “I definitely would encourage folks as it is a great way to connect to people right now during covid-19 and having a relationship with your neighbors. It’s a very very healthy way to live!” Nayeon went on to mention her own childhood and how she was close with her neighbors and she realized how much she missed having a community amongst her neighbors. This desire inspired the pods. People within the same pod communicate through WhatsApp or Facebook whether it be to socialize or to lend a hand to a fellow pod member. Maseeda and Nayeon touched on a few highlights from their experiences in their own pod. For instance, one woman had made too much for dinner and, since she lived alone, knew she would not be able to finish it. Instead of letting the food go to waste, she put out a message on WhatsApp informing pod members that they were welcome to the food left at her house. Pods have proven to be effective in bringing Regent Park residents closer together. Whether it’s to share meals, pick up groceries for others or even to meet new people from a safe distance e, the Covid pandemic has led to new and innovative ways of enhancing social connections. Regent Park residents who have lived on the same street for over ten years have just met each other for the first time through the pods. Just as t he Regent Park Pods Initiative has eased the feeling of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that the connections and relationships developed through this new method will have an impact that lasts long after this health crisis is over.
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By Ella Coccimiglio
Ella is a summer journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre