In Saskatoon, SK Canada, relationships blossom through the present pandemic and isolation
“So, how do we love our neighbors now?”
Katelyn Siggelkow, Servant Partners staff in Saskatoon, Canada, is one of many asking this question during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns.
“Social isolation is challenging for a community like ours, where connection is a source of survival, healing, and consolation,” Katelyn said. “It feels counterintuitive to our work of community-building, but we are watching, waiting, and creatively working to see how God will bring hope and healing in these times. We remember that our stories of transformation are ultimately rooted in Jesus’ redemptive work.”
Saskatoon’s Westside includes refugee populations and First Nations communities that regularly experience high rates of unemployment, poor health, and poverty. Many of Katelyn’s neighbors are elderly, immunocompromised, or struggling to make ends meet. The recent legislation around social distancing has exacerbated many of the neighborhood’s issues and distressed residents.
“Everyone is reeling from this,” she said. “Even if we’re all experiencing it differently, everyone’s lives are changing. We’re seeing how this lockdown is affecting the marginalized, in particular, and are looking to connect specific needs of the community to individuals.”
Though many local social services have closed, some key agencies have come together to provide essential services like housing and income assistance at the centralized hub. But responding to neighborhood needs is more complicated than one-stop services. Single parents struggle to balance work, childcare, and schooling. Elderly folks wrestle with the emotional toll of isolation. As Servant Partners staff in the neighborhood, Katelyn knows the stories and personal struggles of her neighbors. Her efforts are connected to ongoing care and relationships.
“The economy here is relationships,” she said. “It’s not money that gives people stability in a low-income context—it’s relationships. When those support systems are ripped out from under them, it can be very detrimental. We’re giving to specific needs that people have. It enhances the sense that we’re in this together. It doesn’t feel as patronizing to be receiving hope right now. We’re all in a situation where we need it.”
Katelyn has made a daily routine out of intentionally messaging and calling neighbors. Over the phone, she prays, shares scriptures, and regularly chats with people she’d normally only talk to once a week at church. Her neighbors are also showing up to care for one another through phone calls, children’s activity books, and board games. One neighbor felt especially overwhelmed by this crisis after recently losing his sister to suicide. His neighbor prayed for him, telling him, “We’ll carry you through this.” When another neighbor learned that his friend received a cancer diagnosis, he felt compelled to share God’s love with him. He called him and prayed for him.
“These are little glimpses of ongoing relationships, but we’re seeing a deep dive in neighbors caring for each other,” Katelyn said. “I’m excited to see how our relationships blossom, as we connect in new and deeper ways during this phase of social distancing.”
Like Katelyn, Servant Partners staff seek to care for their neighbors through ongoing relationships and immediate relief during this crisis. You can support our Servant Partners COVID-19 Community Support Fund here.