Chan Jit Yen loves celebrating the Lunar New Year. Like many who take part in the holiday, she uses it as a time to travel back home to family and celebrate with festivities. For Chan and her husband that means traveling from their home in Singapore back to Malaysia. But this year the pandemic halted travel for the annual holiday, leaving many to celebrate differently. So instead of being welcomed by her family, she welcomed four Malaysian students into her home to celebrate.
The four students came to celebrate in her home through the Malaysian Association in Singapore. The association reached out to other Malaysians in the country to host the students away from home. Twenty-five students were paired with 10 hosts. Under strict pandemic rules households are able to have eight guests per day.
Chan decided to make hot pot lunch for the students. When they arrived they discussed school, work and their favorite Malaysian foods and cities. Chan hoped that the students felt closer to home during the small celebration. “Especially (for) Malaysian students, Chinese New Year has been something that they’re really looking forward to,” Chan told the Associated Press. “I hope they … feel like home and not feeling left out in Singapore.”
Artist and photographer Donald Verger puts his heart into every piece he makes. During the pandemic, he has used his colorful sea glass heart artwork and stunning landscape photography as a way to reach out to schools and hospitals. Verger hopes that his pieces can cause a smile or a moment of peace. Over 25,000 postcards of his hearts and landscape photography have been sent to schools and hospitals. Verger delivers 1,000 or 2,500 at a time to give to staff, teachers and students. He also donated at least 10,0000 postcards with LOVE superimposed on them and another 10,000 with the word HOPE.
The first time Verger used his art to bring comfort was in 2011 after a tornado killed 150 in Missouri. He put together 25,000 postcards and images and donated them all to the Red Cross. He hopes his work gives people hope during trying times. “It seems like a great privilege to do something that supports happiness and some sense of hope,” Verger told the Associated Press.
The only time the doctors and nurses at Oregon Health and Science University can take off their masks is during a meal. It is a moment of composure and emotional sustenance during a 12 hour shift. When COVID-19 cases soared in the county, many frontline hospital workers felt burnt out. But Oregon-based insurance fund SAIF provided for them in a way that kept their hearts and stomachs full: donating meals from some of Portland’s best restaurants.
Not only do the meals satisfy the first responders, it keeps the restaurants afloat during the pandemic. Restaurants struggled during the winter because of the state’s indoor eating ban, so the hospital catering became an essential business opportunity for many eateries. Three times a week the restaurants provide 2,600 meals to doctors, nurses, physician assistants, custodial staff and other front-line workers in the emergency room at Oregon Health and Science University. The restaurants needed the business and the workers needed the comfort. Nurse Henry Valdez felt the meals were a blessing.
“I’ve never been more tired, mentally, physically and emotionally. It really has drained me,” he told the Associated Press. “When these meals started, I was just in awe. One or two times it brought a tear to my eye, the generosity of people, because it has not been an easy year — and the food provided comfort.”