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Thursday Connectors: European Extravaganza #2

by Farzana Hakim

Hi, all. It’s Farzana here, with this week’s exciting extension to our European extravaganza. Hoorah!

Last week, we had a cute connector with eight-year-old Jack from Ireland. This worked so well that this week, to bring a smile to our faces, I’m kicking thing off with a few words from his six-year-old brother, Cillian.

Paul (Dad): What are you most looking forward to when this is all over?

C: Going back to my old routine.

P: What – school? You’re looking forward to going back to school?

C: Yeah.

P: Mummy is doing home school with you and Jack. What do you think of that?

C: Fine but it’s not my favourite.

P: And what do you think of the teacher?

C: Good.

I hope my youngest feels the same!

The first stop for today’s Thursday Connectors is Bolzano in Italy, where Zeeshan Amjid, a local business owner, tells us how he is trying to remain composed and calm, despite facing many obstacles during the pandemic.

Hi, Zeeshan. Let’s connect:

Forza Italia

Bolzano is a city in Italy like no other. I came here 10 years ago from Pakistan and have since made this my permanent home. Bolzano is known as a paradise in the Dolomites. It’s a place full of beautiful nature reserves, mountains and fauna. People here speak both Italian and German. We have a multicultural society and that’s what makes Bolzano so special.

The situation here is better than that of Lombardy, where unfortunately more than 23,000 people have lost their lives to this cursed virus. However, Bolzano, like the rest of Italy, is also bearing the brunt of the coronavirus heavily. My city relies on tourism. People from all over the world come to the capital of the South Tyrol Province to gain access to the Italian Alps. Its hilly vineyards, amazing views and medieval architecture, including the museum of archaeology which houses the Neolithic mummy called Otzi, attract tourists all year round.  You can imagine the impact the quarantine is having on the city.

To be fair, the Italian state has been doing its best. Now, two months into lockdown, things are getting better. I am a small businessman running a money transfer shop in the centre of Bolzano and have been able to keep open. But I am incurring great losses. Business is terribly slow, with not even 20% of what I was making before lockdown. This is making me very anxious and I don’t know how long I can carry on like this. I have a small family to provide for. And, to make matters worse, I was recently given a huge fine of almost 300 euros by the Provincial Council for not wearing the correct type of mask at my shop.

Of course, I am appealing this. The Province sent scarves to be worn as masks to all the businesses in the city centre. It was this scarf I was wearing, over my nose and mouth, when they came and issued this fine. Apparently, the guidelines had changed and I was supposed to be wearing a face mask. These are hard to get hold of and are in short supply. It is a very worrying time.

Despite this fine and the confusion, I am very happy with the way Bolzano has been fighting the virus. The roads and public places are being disinfected regularly and the supermarkets are adhering to social distancing. There are sanitizing gels in my own shop for customers to use on entry. We are to wear gloves and masks all the time when outside. The Bolzanini people are doing well. We are calm; just like the streets, that are also calm.

We’re now in phase two, which began on 4th May, and some of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. For now, I am hoping this will be over soon. Forza Italia.


Thanks, Zeeshan. That was very insightful. Only this morning, I received an email from my friend in Rome, inviting me to her home for a short vacation. I’ve visited Rome before and I fell in love with absolutely everything about it. However, I’m not sure I’m ready to make plans for a holiday just yet. But I agree — Italy is a fascinating country and I’ll be putting Bolzano on my need-to-visit list right away.

Moving on now from one beautiful country to the next, we connect with Norway. Susanne H is a care worker at a hospice and talks to us about  how she is coping with lockdown as a single mum of three, despite having to go out to work each day. People like Susanne are truly inspirational, which is why I have chosen her article to share with you.

Hi, Susanne. Let’s connect to Norway.

Keeping Courage In Kristiansand

In Norway, lockdown started on 12th March. At the beginning, I didn’t feel the pressure of the situation too much. However, during the second week of  lockdown, I began to feel the effects of the coronavirus. This was when it began to interfere with the normal routines of my life.

The schools had closed and the children were starting to study online. The, all of a sudden, they were bombarded with loads of homework, which had to be done by certain deadlines. They felt a lot of stress, especially the younger ones. This was all new to them, but I found talking about the situation every day helped keep them calm. We sat and spoke about it and watched some of the news together. Eventually, the children did settle and I no longer felt guilty leaving them to attend to my own job as a care worker.

This was a scary thought: me going to work while my teenager took care of his younger brothers. It took real courage for me to go to work, where I could be exposed to more germs and have more of a risk of catching the coronavirus. But I had responsibilities and had to go in every day.

My anxiety peaked when one of my sons developed a high temperature, which remained for four days. I was out of my mind with worry and stayed at home to look after him. I isolated him in a separate room in our apartment and treated him with paracetamol. Thankfully, on the fifth day he was much better and determinedto get back to his online studies.

I continue to talk to my kids every day to check on how they are feeling about the situation. There is nowhere they can go. They must remain indoors. All the sporting clubs and activities are closed. It’s hard for them, so it’s important I remain in touch with their feelings and help them in every way I can.

Back at work, we started with a full clean of the wards and now, everything is disinfected daily. We also have a plan of action which is regularly reviewed, looking at how to protect ourselves as well as the patients of the care home. We continue to make our patients aware of things like washing their hands. We also keep explaining the situation, so that they don’t feel too overwhelmed when their families can’t visit as before. It breaks my heart when visits from a distance of two metres mean that  patients can’t hug their family members. It’s a terrifying and anxious time for many.

Despite my hard day at work, I return to my children in the evenings with a big smile. I shower and change, then give them all a hug. They tell me about their day as I’m cooking dinner. While eating, we discuss any homework they need help on.


Thank you so much, Susanne. This has been one of my favourite connectors so far. It’s so important to keep in touch with our child’s feelings. Being a mother of three children myself, I can understand where you are coming from. Remember, you are doing an amazing job. Your children are lucky to have you!

And remaining on the topic of homework and schools, I think it’s a great time to connect with a teacher from the UK in our key worker segment. Natasha Gleeson, Head of House at Nene Park Academy in Peterborough, gives us her take on the current situation.

Hi, Natasha. Let’s connect.

Key Worker: Teacher

Being a teacher is challenging at the best of times, but the coronavirus has taken this to the next level. A teacher wants nothing more than to be stood in front of their class, passing on their knowledge to the children who rely on them day in, day out.

Not being able to do this takes a teacher away from everything they know, so we have had to adapt very quickly to ensure our students still have the help and support they need, as well as feeding their hunger to learn in the best possible way. This has included setting daily tasks through online learning platforms, as well as using social media to keep a sense of community spirit and competition going.

As well as having to adapt to teaching at home, schools are still open for business to support those children of other key workers. This, of course, creates apprehension, as we are all being told by the powers that be that home is the safest place. Having to go into work to mix with other adults and children is worrying, but it’s the least we can do to support those on the front line.

Ensuring that all children have a safe place to be and food to eat has been the main priority for us. When school closures were announced, there was a clear urgency to make sure all of our students who were entitled to free school meals still had access to this.

It has been heartbreaking to see how upset our year 11 and year 13 students are, and even more upsetting that we can’t do anything about it. They have worked so hard, and, for them, it feels as though it has been futile.

This really is an unimaginable situation for so many people, but, if one thing has come from this, watching my colleagues pull together and take on numerous roles in one day to support the students in our school, has been truly heartwarming.


That was inspirational, thank you, Natasha.


And finally…

Next week ,we begin our Asia Connectors. We head to Pakistan and India for some interesting stories of lockdown.  Now, I must leave you and hope to see  you all again next Thursday.

Don’t forget to clap for our key workers later. Stay safe and stay calm!

The roads and public places are being disinfected regularly and the supermarkets are adhering to social distancing. There are sanitizing gels in my own shop for customers to use on entry. We are to wear gloves and masks all the time when outside.