Although the world appears to have stopped, a lot of people continue to do their bit for society. It can be said that this situation has split the population into two: the ones that still work and those who go out on their balconies to applaud them.
Jokes aside, it’s time to reflect and show gratitude. Is it really essential that all of these workers continue their job during the quarantine? How are they dealing with the situation of being exposed to Coronavirus most of the day? Are they getting enough protection from the companies they work for?
Babylon had a chat with some of them and this is the result. Here comes our little tribute to the heroes of the quarantine:
Jennifer, 30 years old, red berry handler
More than ten years working in this sector and it’s the first time she’s truly scared about it. “I suffered a panic attack a few days ago”, she confessed. Insomnia, lack of appetite and dizziness are symptoms of Coronavirus that most of us may experience at least one of these days. The psychological part is the other side of the quarantine: “I’m on a continuous roller coaster of emotions”, she admits. “One day I feel fear and other days I feel fine. To be honest, I’m more concerned about economic issues at the moment”.
Accordingly, she’s worried about working fewer hours and finishing the season earlier than expected. “We cannot continue working if the stores don’t sell our fruit. We live thanks to exports”. This is another consequence of Coronavirus: people don’t buy fresh products as much as they used to.
Regarding protection measures, the company was slow to put them in place. Imagine how unsafe this can be and the risk it presents to our/their health. At first, the managers told the workers that masks were unnecessary. A few days later, due to the numerous complaints, a local dressmaker donated some homemade masks (one per worker). “He even made them with a special fabric so that we could easily sterilise the masks at home and use them the next day”, Jennifer said. In other cases, workers themselves obtained any other type of masks bought from markets.
The Spanish fruit picker explains: “Two weeks ago, the 150 people who work here used to enter the building almost at the same time. Now, we enter in groups of 10-15 people, ten minutes apart and a security guard checks our temperatures”.
Is it enough? The reader may ask. In the midst of this chaos, she sees the sunshine, brighter than never before. Suddenly, Jennifer spreads a message of hope, much like Charlie Chaplin’s speech in the final scene of The Great Dictator.
“Perhaps, we will come together as a society, prioritizing individuals instead of superficial stuff. To think more about tomorrow and leave a better world to the ones that come. Now, it seems that sectors that were previously invisible are in the foreground. I encourage everyone, myself included, to listen to each other’s needs and learn from it whilst trying to stop contributing to this individualistic and selfish society”,
Meri, 30 years old, nurse
We know that workers in the health sector are always essential, but now more so than ever during the quarantine. In some countries, ordinary people locked-down at home go out on their balconies and applaud all at once, showing their gratitude and respect for the ones that take care of them. Meri is the name of our next superheroine, a young nurse who works in one of the most recognised hospitals in Spain: Vall D’Hebron (Barcelona city) and loves what she does, saving lives.
“The current situation concerns me a lot. Firstly, for my family and patients. Secondly, for the people I live with: three flatmates, at least they’re healthy young people. Nevertheless, I disinfect my clothes and shoes every time I go inside the apartment and clean the bathroom with bleach after taking a hot shower”, she declares.
Life at the hospital is not easy. She no longer has days off. The Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is not enough in terms of quantity or quality (many of her coworkers are infected, which causes a lack of health personnel). Also, too much work-related stress.
She used to be able to count with her fingers how many people have died since she’s been working there. That changed a month ago: “I see people dying every single day. The respirator issue is the most worrisome of them all. Can you imagine yourself prioritising lives? Removing the respirator from a 65 years old person because a younger person has to survive..”, the Spanish nurse says.
Meri affirms that the worst part of it all is that they die alone, far away from the family and in terrible conditions: “It frustrates me a lot having to hold the hand of a terminally ill patient with a double glove, that’s inhuman, I think about it a lot when I’m in bed at night”.
“However, everything becomes easier when patients show their gratitude every moment, even if they are feeling very sore. Or when one of them has a lovely video call with his/her family through my mobile phone. Love is all we need, I just hope people start valuing life more, human contact, nature…”, she claims.
With all of this, she reaffirms herself as a vocational nurse, and today more than ever her premise as a nurse is:
“If you can heal, heal. If you cannot heal, relieve. If you cannot relieve, comfort. And if you can’t console, keep them company”.
Ángela, 27 years old, school teacher
We couldn’t finish this report without hearing from a teacher. Who does not remember, from time to time, that one teacher that marked your work during childhood/adolescence? They are the ones that taught us the real meaning of ‘reflection’, ‘teamwork’, to love Literature or how to be more creative in life.
Ángela, a high school teacher, admits her job is essential, even more so when we live in a democracy and it is a fundamental right: “If this quarantine has made something clear to us, it is that all jobs are necessary, regardless of the titles, we’re all the links of a large chain and we need each other”.
From talking to students in a classroom to now doing her best from her bedroom. “To be honest, everything feels colder, more bureaucratic, more mechanical, with less excitement for learning and teaching”, she states. But this is part of her job, she says, because “they’re made to suit students and circumstances”.
Speaking of telecommuting, as Aristoteles used to say, ‘the human being is a social being”. In terms of teaching, she thinks many factors are missing: “Education is a process which must occur from person to person. From experience, I can tell you that what is lived in a single hour of class is so enriching (for both parts) that it cannot replace even the best of technologies.
Evaluating students is easy for her, Ángela believes in day by day working, a constant process measured with many different instruments and not just an exam. “We are now ending the term and we’ve been very flexible about it because it’s not the priority anymore. The main priority at the moment is to encourage, reassure and support our boys and girls who have been left in a very strange situation, without their routine, without their friends, with difficult situations at home, with many questions and many fears. We’ve been at the other side of the screen at all times, with motivational video calls and messages so that they feel accompanied”, the lovely teacher thinks.
To finish this article, there could be no better ending (Ángela’s quote):
“We still have a long way to go, but we will get ahead, and luckily, I will have to live it from a precious profession supporting the youngest ones of that journey, especially the most vulnerable so that together the road is easier”.
Alright! Those words were made for telling the story of 3 of the professionals that make our lives better every single day. Thank you, thank you, thank you! And thank you, Babylon reader, you’re amazing if you are still here! Now go and cheer your closest hero for making your day easier. Peace!