Melissa Hauber-Özer & Meagan Call-Cummings
More than six months into this global pandemic, many of us are launching a new academic year unlike any other, marked by uncertainty and new challenges. We are trying to make the best of online teaching and virtual research, juggling our work while supervising our children’s remote education, grappling with unemployment or potential budget cuts, missing loved ones we can’t or don’t dare to visit for fear of putting them at risk. Vacations, wedding receptions, and conferences have been cancelled. Between debates over masking, ongoing racial justice protests, and the looming presidential elections, tensions are higher than ever in the US. In Turkey, as in many places, COVID-19 case numbers are steadily rising after a lackluster tourism season, dashing hopes of opening schools and increasing economic worries.
Yes, in some ways we’ve adjusted to ‘the new normal’ or even found bright spots: more family time, new teaching techniques or skills, a plethora of opportunities to connect with colleagues around the world through free or affordable virtual conferences, webinars, and meetings. For us, one of these bright spots has undeniably been the Social Solidarity Project. Participants from Sri Lanka, Turkey, South Africa, Germany, Scotland, Canada, and the US have generously shared multilingual glimpses into their experiences of the pandemic, including:
- Efforts to make masks and face shields for essential workers, to ensure access to education for children in remote villages, and to share food and hygiene supplies with neighbors in need and vulnerable groups;
- The chance to care for elderly parents, to renew contact with distant loved ones, and to cultivate gardens; and
- The comfort found in cherished pets, nature, works of art, music, and simple pleasures like a cup of tea.
We have witnessed isolation, loss, disappointment, and fear as well, but these submissions highlight positivity, resilience, adaptability, and creativity in the face of unprecedented difficulties.
The project succeeded in creating a sense of solidarity across national boundaries and through lockdowns, a feeling that we are all in this together. Reports of COVID-19 vaccine trials and success stories like New Zealand suggest that life will go back to normal someday soon, but at the same time we offer up this hope, we wonder about ‘normal’. What does that mean? What will that look like? Is that really what we want? While we wonder, we also aim to keep the positive outcomes of this global crisis in mind. We ask ourselves, how can we hold on to the sense of solidarity and connection that has been built?
As we formally close the Social Solidarity Project, we want to thank all those who participated by submitting pictures and narratives as well as those who visited the site. We are grateful for your solidarity in these difficult times.