A Diwali gift to the community: phone line run by local centre aims to fight social isolation

·2 min read

The South Asian Centre of Windsor (SACW) is launching a new phone line built for "friendly chats" in a bid to connect community members with someone to talk to amid the pandemic.

The project director for SACW said organizers recognized a gap in the way the south Asian community has been able to connect due to COVID-19 restrictions, which have kept many from gathering for months.

"Newcomer families, international students, seniors and caregivers who are isolated because of all the public health restrictions...most of them are homebound, especially the seniors, and because many of them even have language and cultural barriers, it's also difficult for them to reach out to communities around them who don't speak their language," explained Nandini Tirumala.

Through the Windsor-Essex Community Foundation and the United Way, the centre was able to secure funding to train volunteers to provide support through the new phone line, called Namaste Windsor.

"The significance of Namaste Windsor...it is all about showing openness, respect, warmth and connection. And that's the reason we named the phone line number Namaste Windsor," said Tirumala.

Volunteers will answer the phone lines in a number of languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Nepalese, Bengali and Punjabi. Anyone in Windsor over 18-years-old can call at 226-280-8165 to connect for a quick conversation or for support.

Lines expected to be busy during winter months

"[The phone line] will be answered more as a friendly call as well as a chat and it will be in different languages...Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Nepalese, Bengali Punjabi are the most widely spoken languages here in Windsor so trained volunteers will provide support through these phone lines," she said.

Tirumala said about two volunteers per language will be available to take calls in rotation Monday to Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. She added the program has room to grow if the demand from the community calls for it.

The phone line will launch starting the week of November 16, as many community members celebrate Diwali.

"We thought Diwali would be a great time to launch the service and also because we also see that winter will be coming up soon, and also the cases in the region are going up. So which means further isolation for those who have been already experiencing [isolation]," said Tirumala.

"Diwali is usually a big celebration for us here in Windsor we know that families gather together, we have large prayer gatherings in the Hindu temple...but with all COVID-19 cases going up, we have to make healthy priority. And so it is important that we still find ways to connect with each other."