So what is it like finding yourself in a foreign country during a pandemic!
As an Australian currently based in Europe, it’s whether I like it or not.
The original intent was to build international networks, develop and/or find interesting projects and opportunities to increase learnings while sharing knowledge between Australia, Europe and in a post-Brexit world the United Kingdom.
Who would have imagined that during the past twelve months there have been waves of restrictions, differing levels of lockdowns with varying levels of success!
It has been very interesting watching the Australian response from afar while remaining very connected to my home network. While living and breathing another reality.
For some context I am based in Germany and it remains a very dynamic situation over here as the numbers across the country and throughout Europe continue to respond in differing ways to the new variants and the various policy responses.
The following are just some of my personal reflections over the past 12 months or so, that we must take time to consider as we continue to respond not only to this pandemic but hopefully be better prepared by collectively learning. I recognise that this is and remains a difficult matter to manage and lead.
I acknowledge it is difficult to make broad statements and it may seem at times that I am over generalising on my findings, learnings and thoughts. I believe that will be the case but I do think we need to start collating our thoughts to begin the conversation.
In building my own personal resilience and mental health wellbeing I have always taken the time to document my thinking while I am experiencing an event or not long after the situation – my view is by at least documenting them it is a starting point to learn from it.
Our focus must always be for and with vulnerable communities.
This experience has heightened my leadership about the impacts of a lack of information due to poor communication channels. During the pandemic it has been very difficult to get fact based information that is clear and concise.
I do think the messaging across cultures and languages has been difficult for all.
The world should stop using the term ‘Social Distancing’ it should be ‘physical distancing’ – the current term has a negative impact of our thinking we should be physically distant but not socially. Unfortunately we will see the social impacts over many years with increases in domestic violence and mental health issues relating with disconnections with our trusted social networks.
Many across the disaster and emergency sector talk about the role of ‘shared responsibility’, collaboration and the co-design of disaster risk controls before, during and after.
From my perspective this has been major contribution to the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of the Covid response.
Many businesses were ill-prepared or if they were it was just at the business continuity or disaster recovery planning level. Globally it seemed we lost our way – we should always have an ‘outcome focus’ supported by authentic leadership, good planning, project management and tasks deliverables.
I do think many governments speak ‘at their communities’ without really engaging with them. Government, business and communities have continuously talked about how to effectively engage the communities they operate in, but in my experience globally have not been able to achieve it.
Community engagement is and has always been a core belief at C2C that we ingrain in everything we do.
The importance to remain connected to a personal and professional network is extremely critical, as it helps us check in with each other while being an important channel in finding out current information. The diversity, the sharing and ability to connect across these networks has been invaluable for our own mental health and I hope we have been helpful back to them. It may not be the same as in person, but it is definitely a real ‘sense of community’.
The latest lockdown has been in place since November 2020 and currently is due to end on the 18th April 2021. So why do “I feel lost in the supermarket”. It is a reference to a song by the English punk band the Clash.
The song states ‘The kids in the halls and the pipes in the walls, make me noises for company, long distance callers make long distance calls and the silence makes me lonely’.
I would like to thank all the staff at my ‘local supermarket’ for being there for this language challenged Australian that has been learning German during a pandemic.
I wouldn’t have made it through without my community.
James Ritchie is one of the co-founders of corporate2community, a social enterprise committed to building disaster resilience.
James is an international disaster risk and resilience expert currently based in Germany.
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