Dishing out hope



“When you feel powerless, helping others is the most powerful antidote...It will make you and them feel better.”

Julia Samuel


I never imagined that in this lifetime I will experience the juggernaut that is Covid 19. Its crippling power has brought the mightiest of nations to their knees. It quickly revealed who the real mvps are in this world- certainly not the celebrities. Suddenly the grocery cashiers, truck drivers delivering vital goods, farmers, garbage collectors, first responders, nurses and doctors have been thrust into stardom.


Here in Trinidad and Tobago, I would like to think that we have been spared much of the virus' medical onslaught. However, the sanctions imposed by Goverment have left many sectors reeling. Schools are closed for the moment and parents are juggling the often impossible task of working remotely and homeschooling. Restaurants are closed. Daycares are closed. Many businesses closed, some to perhaps never see the sunrise again. The entire hospitality industry has virtually dried up. This spells economic havoc for a region heavily reliant on tourism, but only time will reveal the true burden that our future has to carry. And let’s not talk about the lingering psychological impact Covid-19 will have on all of us. Will it forever change the way we greet each other? Are we all being forced to re-evaluate our lives and realign priorities? What will the new normal look like?

Despite the drudgery and never-ending anxieties of this chapter in mankind's history, one of my LinkedIn connections, Jay Robb, summed up Covid 19 as being ‘a master class in resilience’. Being inspired by this positive outlook, I set out to find those silver lining stories from those who are perhaps most impacted, financially and or emotionally. I chose various professions to hear the varying degrees of distress and hope.

Dishing out hope during a pandemic


You have a $4000 mortgage to pay. You just found out that your catering job must cease operations. The bank is deferring your payments for three months. A reprieve perhaps? Absolutely not. There's still three months of interest to pay. If you can't settle payments after this period, they will convert it to a loan. Another liability.


Your family now has to survive on one income. What do you do?


Find a family in need, and ensure that they are fed everyday. Be selfless...


My first interview was with ‘Simon’ (real name concealed), a caterer. Simon was enthusiastic about his thriving business until Tuesday 7th April when Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley announced that all restaurants including catering businesses will be closed to stem the virus’ spread. The shock of this decision was deep among entrepreneurs like Simon.

About four years ago, Simon left the corporate world and the safety of stability to pursue entrepreneurship. He bravely opened his own restaurant. However this venture caved as his business partner exited the arrangement. Closing this business was no easy decision, and with the string of setbacks he has endured throughout his life, Simon was plunged into abject misery. His family depended on his wife’s income to pay the bills and settle mounting debts. He was without an actual salary for 17 months...


Mustering courage, Simon refused to accept failure. A new initiative was about to give birth-catering. As this venture grew, his customers provided rave reviews on his social media page. His success was steadily rising, landing him catering jobs with major corporate entities. Things were looking up as the proverbial 'light at the end of the tunnel' was finally in sight . Can you imagine the joy of finally being able to pay for the family’s groceries? A simple dream for many.


Then hit Covid-19.


It struck with the force of Fukushima’s tsunami 9 years ago that eviscerated thousands of lives and memories, triggering one of two Level 7 radioactive disasters the world has ever experienced. Except that this 'killer' is invisible and silent.

The world watched uneasily as the number of cases grew exponentially overnight. Trinidad and Tobago’s Government started implementing travel restrictions early, with phased closure of institutions. The food industry's faith was inevitable. Days following the announcement that catering services were to desist, Simon was numb with pain. His dreams were once again slipping away. He was like a parent fighting to cling on to their child's hand as their body dangled over the edge of a precipitous cliff. Terrified. But still fearless.


I've learnt in life that when we are in the depths of despair, we should give more. Time, knowledge, or expertise. Just give. My parents came from humble beginnings, yet they gave abundantly without calculating any impact on future savings. Dreams would become luxury items, and filling empty stomachs became essential. Simon did exactly what my parents taught me what to do.


A family was in need in food. The brunt of Covid-19 was too deep for them. Simon stepped in...


Daily, Simon cooks and distributes food to this particular family. He does not know what the future holds, but for now, this is where he needs to be. He has faith that his business will continue to thrive once restrictions are lifted. Simon has chosen to dish out hope.


I admire Simon's tenacity. His quiet strength, like many of the interviewees I would soon encounter, is inspiring to say the least. Everyday I continue to re-assess my own life and how to add value to someone else's. It's an ongoing conversation between myself and the universe...

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© 2020 by Amrita Maharaj-Dube