Diljot Garcha, U of M Student

Diljot Garcha, U of M Student

One of the hardest things about COVID-19 for me has been how suddenly everything changed.

I’m 22 years old and about to graduate from Computer Science at the University of Manitoba. Last year when it all began, I remember I was with my friends in a study room on March 13, 2020, and we had no idea that day would be our last time to be together on campus. It wasn’t until later in the day that the lockdown was announced, and we learned that we wouldn’t be heading back to campus for classes.

At the time I thought we would be heading home and hunkering down for a couple of weeks, and I have to admit it was kind of fun at first. We started taking classes from the comfort of home and I didn’t think I would ever want to wear real clothes again. But it’s also been harder than I ever imagined it would be. Learning online is more difficult as there is a lot more responsibility on the learner because you’re completely on your own.

Before COVID there was more of a natural structure to school: you go to class, take notes, study, and take the tests. But this year it was much harder than ever to stay organized and motivated. Now with my graduation coming up it has started to hit me that I won’t ever be on campus again and those normal fun days of my university life are done, just passed by, completely unceremoniously finished.

But as difficult as school has been, the social challenges have been the hardest. Going from seeing everyone to seeing no one, essentially overnight, has been extremely jarring, especially because that was one of the most enjoyable parts of school for me. Between the added stress at school and lack of connection to my friends, it created a lot of anxiety for me and still does. That’s why I’m excited about the vaccine and can’t wait when we’ll all be eligible for our shots. For me, getting vaccinated will be a big step towards some level of normalcy, and it will mean we’re closer to the end of this thing than the beginning.

Overall, I think the COVID-19 pandemic has shown everyone how much we take for granted. I was feeling on top of the world and then out of nowhere, I’m inside my house for a year. I also think this has taught us to manage illness more seriously, including the mental health challenges so many people have had to deal with. Before people would be made fun of for staying home when they’re sick or saying they just need a day for themselves, and I think this has changed that mentality.

For anyone who feels a bit nervous about getting the vaccine, I think that’s pretty normal, but there has never been a global effort like this to make a vaccine. So much work has gone into making these vaccines effective and safe, and it’s gone through rigorous testing and safety protocols so I feel very confident in getting the vaccine when it’s my turn.


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Tracey Schlamb, Manager of Department of Nursing, CancerCare Manitoba

Tracey Schlamb, Manager of Department of Nursing, CancerCare Manitoba

I’m a nursing manager for CancerCare Manitoba. During the pandemic, it’s been very hard for those working in healthcare to keep up the positive face that we show our patients. The pandemic-related changes are happening quickly, which places a strain on us. Cancer patients still require treatment and care and unfortunately, our patients are coming in sicker than before because they’re too worried about leaving their houses even for their cancer care. 

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been worried about my family. My husband’s job is in the transport industry so both he and I have been out in public this whole time, along with our children in the school system – we’ve had higher exposure to the virus. We offer support for my mother-in-law, who has severe health conditions, so it’s been hard on us all as we’ve had to isolate to keep her safe. 

When I got my first dose of the vaccine my husband and kids dropped me off at the RBC Convention Centre. They wanted to be there with me when I came out, because it felt like a big climactic moment. I was fortunate and had zero side effects with the first dose of vaccine, while with the second dose, I had a bit of a headache that went away with some Advil. 

I know some of my friends and family have concerns that the vaccines were made in a rush. I use this opportunity to educate them on the science behind the creation of vaccines such as the COVID vaccine or the annual influenza vaccine. I have also received lots of questions about the efficacy of different vaccines, and I have friends who are holding out for a particular vaccine. I have told them that the right vaccine is the first one available to you. My husband was finally eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot, which was a relief to both of us. 

We live in a Winnipeg hotspot area that was prioritized for vaccination, and the day that eligibility for vaccination opened, our neighbourhood Facebook page was filled with messages from people making appointments and my phone filled up with text messages from friends. We’re all happy and relieved when they get the vaccine. We are big hockey fans in our house, and the more vaccines administered, the closer we feel we are to scoring the overtime goal to end the game! 

I hope that in the future, we’ll appreciate our resiliency throughout this troubling time and know that we made it through to the other side, in the world and especially in Manitoba. Hopefully many of us overcame the struggle and found new strength within ourselves.

I’m a nursing manager for CancerCare Manitoba. During the pandemic, it’s been very hard for those working in healthcare to keep up the positive face that we show our patients. The pandemic-related changes are happening quickly, which places a strain on us. Cancer patients still require treatment and care and unfortunately, our patients are coming […]

Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why I chose to be vaccinated.

My family has been in the restaurant business for 50 years. I am the third generation at the helm of The East India Company. We, as a family, chose to close our Winnipeg location on March 16, 2020, earlier than provincial rules. By virtue of owning two restaurant locations in Ottawa, we saw what was coming in Quebec and Ontario and we wanted to be proactive here in Winnipeg. As is the principle within our own family, the health and safety of our guests and employees is always paramount, so we felt closing the restaurant was the safest thing to do.

Since then, takeout and delivery have sustained the restaurant. We’re fortunate to still be in business and that we didn’t have to lay off a single full-time, permanent staff member. Many of our staff have been with us for decades and we see them as more than just employees; they are family.

Normally, I travel to visit my two brothers, who manage our Ottawa locations, once a month. However, I haven’t been able to do that since the onset of the pandemic. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones—I haven’t been able to see my nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law and brothers in person for over a year. But I know many of us understand and share this feeling.

In my personal life, I sit on 11 boards. They’ve all gone virtual. I can honestly say that after the pandemic, I’ll be the first person to uninstall Zoom from my computer! I miss the human connection that comes with in-person meetings.

Our Canadian culture is not defined by takeout and watching Netflix. Our culture is defined by our historical sites, and places where we meet and gather—such as special events at the RBC Convention Centre, or at the new Qaumajuq art gallery, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—or even a restaurant like mine, where we showcase 400-year-old pieces of art. These are places where people can meet, build relationships and grow.

Restaurants are places where people celebrate, make dates, see friends and family. They are places where people go when they reach a crossroads or mark an accomplishment. I miss those moments—the laughter from a table of friends, the excitement of a child opening a gift at a birthday party, the sweetness between a couple celebrating their anniversary—from our restaurant when we were able to share and celebrate special occasions with our visitors.

If you’re a little hesitant about getting vaccinated, by all means, ask questions. Do the research that you need to do. The vast majority of science points to a healthy, safe vaccination process. I believe vaccination will lead us back to normal life, a life where we celebrate together again.

After COVID, I’m looking forward to shaking somebody’s hand again.  It’s so simple but important. And when things get back to normal, I’m looking forward to enjoying a night out with my family at a restaurant, either mine or another—we have great restaurants in Manitoba, and we can’t wait to serve you again in person!

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why […]

Maysoun Darweesh, Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement, MCC Manitoba

Maysoun Darweesh, Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement, MCC Manitoba

I am a program coordinator for migration and resettlement with MCC Manitoba where I work with newcomers and youth in the community. Due to COVID restrictions I meet with community youth outside to talk, following public health guidelines. I can’t do some parts of my job, like home visits. 

I’m a single mom and have two daughters who are in school. During the pandemic, I’ve been so terrified for my daughters, especially the oldest because she has some health issues. With the new variants of the virus having really negative impacts for younger people I’ve become even more concerned. 

Our family includes our cat, Blue. Last year, my co-worker needed to rehome a one-year-old dog, so a new daughter was added to our family, Abby Darweesh—she’s adorable, friendly and bubbly. I joke that my youngest daughter is my favourite. I can’t remember what our life was like without Abby. It was a month before the pandemic, right before all my friends were looking for quarantine dogs. We are so blessed to have her.

I had my first dose of the vaccine at my doctor’s office in Winnipeg. It was AstraZeneca and I didn’t have any side effects except for a sore arm. The needle felt like it does when you get a flu shot. I think even if you feel a little sick from side effects, it’s worth it to get the vaccine. The day I was vaccinated it was the happiest day I’ve had in two years. I left the clinic feeling like I was up and over the clouds, like I owned the whole world!

I’m a Canadian citizen. I was originally sponsored by MCC to come to Canada. In Syria, vaccination was a privilege, but it was an enforced privilege—it wasn’t a choice. I think most of the resettled Syrian community in Manitoba will get immunized, but we need to keep raising awareness. I’ve been telling everybody about my vaccination by phone and email. Hopefully nobody will be left behind.

Everybody should take the vaccine and wear a mask. I understand that we’re all burned out. But the vaccine is something we have to do for our loved ones and our neighbours, and our brothers and sisters.

After everyone in Manitoba is vaccinated, I can’t say everything will go back to the way it was before COVID. But I think it will be less stressful for everybody. We’ll be able to go back to our offices, hold family gatherings and travel. That’s my hope!

I am a program coordinator for migration and resettlement with MCC Manitoba where I work with newcomers and youth in the community. Due to COVID restrictions I meet with community youth outside to talk, following public health guidelines. I can’t do some parts of my job, like home visits.  I’m a single mom and have […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.