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Local groups keep isolated Calgarians virtually connected during coronavirus

Isolated but not alone – Calgarians are coming together to help those in need get online access during this pandemic. 

The Calgary Alliance for the Common Good, along with many of Calgary’s social agencies, have helped deliver more than 3,000 electronic devices to Calgarians living without internet access.

Calgary Alliance for the Common Good’s spokesperson Rev. Anna Greenwood-Lee said they wanted to help isolated Calgarians feel connected with their community. 

“We realized that everyone needs a life-line right now thought the internet, some people do (have it) but a lot of people don’t,” she said.

Through her church and other donating programs, people gave their old and used electronics to give to those in need. 

Greenwood-Lee works teaches recipients to use the new technology, including seniors in long-term care homes.

“I was working with a 94-year-old man on how to use Zoom on his iPad,” she said. 

“It was really fun when all of a sudden he got it and there he was, full screen and he was so excited to see me and I could see him.”

From Classroom To Living-room 

As schools transfer education online, students need to be able to access online programs more then ever before. 

For many low-income families thats not an easily achievable goal

Calgary Alliance for the Common Good in partner with EducationMatters – the charitable arms of the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) worked with the school board to help get devices into the hands of students. 

Through the CBE, the organization has been able to distribute Chrome books, computers and tablets to students. More than 900 devices went to high-school students.

EducationMatters also received $40,000 in fundraising towards buying more devices for students. 

Students and seniors aren’t the only Calgarians that these devices have helped. Some devices have been delivered to people living with disabilities.

Connecting With The Community

Mezaun Lakha-Evin, associate executive director for The Cerebral Palsy Association, has a 30-year-old daughter named Shari. Shari has been left immobile from severe Cerebral Palsy. 

Mezaun Lakha-Evin (left) the mother of Shari Evin has seen her daughter’s mood improve as a result of receiving these devices. Photo: Mezaun Lakha-Evin

Lakha-Evin said that the devices from The Calgary Alliance for Common Good have increased Shari’s quarantine quality of life.

Shari’s usual day programs she would attend were closed due to COVID-19 leaving her isolated and under-stimulated. 

Since receiving the computer, she has been able to connect with others in the Cerebral Palsy community.

“It’s been incredible watching her concentrate and participate using what she deems as her voice thought this device,” Lakha-Evin said.

Initially Lakha-Evin didn’t need a device for Shari because there weren’t any programs in place to support at home connecting. 

When COVID-19 stuck and Lakha-Evin was forced to improvise, she found a community of people connected by online programs for support. 

“It’s engaging and keeps her visually focused on what’s happening on screen. It’s truly miraculous to see,” Lakha-Evin said.