Life before Lockdown…

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It is hard to believe that, just one week ago, meeting at a café was a normal thing to do! Michelle Khorchidian, Commune Coffee coordinator reflects on last week’s gatherings and on ‘community’………..

Social Distancing’ and ‘Distant Learning’ are terms we’ve been familiarised with over the course of the past few months. How does this affect our mission of community building, at La Châtaigneraie?

Since my arrival at La Châtaigneraie, 5 and a half years ago, I have been involved in the PTA in one way or another, where David Woods and Jennifer Armstrong have always spoken about community building. This raises the question: will this new temporary way of life have a long-lasting effect on us? Or will it pass by and be little more than a faded memory by Fall?

Our recent Commune Coffee was held on March 13th, just a week ago. By the time we left our 7 locations and arrived home, we had received an email about our school closure. The days prior to our coffee morning were very uncertain as information was, and is still, changing on a daily basis. I was even uncertain if anyone would show up, as the fear of COVID-19 had just begun to escalate at that point. Though I am the coordinator of this event, I left it up to my very helpful hosts and the parents themselves to decide whether or not to attend. In the end, about 40 people participated in the coffee morning, slightly lower than the average of 50-60.

The commune coffee was first launched in the fall of 2013 by Sally Cooper as a welcome committee initiative. Prior to then there had been no such thing as welcome breakfasts or even a Facebook page. Connecting with new and existing parents was difficult, making it a challenge for new families to settle in.
Now, 7 years later, parents are still getting together in the only whole school coffee morning, connecting neighbours from both the primary and secondary schools. While enjoying a warm beverage, parents exchange advice, create support networks (such as for babysitting, carpooling, cycling groups etc.) and help build the sense of community that has come so far. Hopefully the connections made with local parents at last week’s events will prove particularly helpful in the coming weeks, as we rely on each other to get through this crisis.

I would like to thank all of my hosts, who have continually committed themselves every year, spring and fall, and all the parents that have also regularly attended this event.

My hopes are, that in spite of the “social distancing”, our beautiful community, with the French bisous-giving, café-going culture, that pulled me in all the way from Canada, will remain resilient, in the face of this virus.

I can only hope that in the fall and the years to come, when all of this has passed, that I won’t subconsciously be searching for hand sanitisers every time I walk into a pharmacy!

Bisous,
Michelle Khorchidian

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