Looking out for each other during the pandemic
Tenant representatives and the Wishing Well community
Edward Or proudly shows us the many certificates and tokens of recognition he has received for his years of service as a TCHC tenant representative in his building.
The Premier of Ontario, members of parliament, City representatives and TCHC have all recognized his contributions to his fellow tenants in the building and the Wishing Well community (a small section of Scarborough just southwest of Warden and Sheppard).
But what truly brings him to life when he shares his story are the many fellow tenants in his seniors building that rely on him for support and assistance. This includes helping with translation, easing the concerns of tenants uncertain about visitors, distributing meals in the building, and communicating needs and requests from tenants to TCHC.
Standing near the building entrance, Edward is greeted warmly by almost every tenant leaving to start their day. “I have supported so many tenants over my time as a tenant representative and I am happy to do this,” he said. “There are many seniors who do not speak English and have been isolated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; I have helped them translate needs for medical services and vaccination requirements. I have helped them to access technology in the community. Many seniors are living alone and were not always able to see their family during the pandemic. I am happy to do this as a tenant leader, and I am proud to be an active member of my community.
“We just help out where we can”
Edward works together with tenant representatives Larry Cheung, Na Shu Na and Me Hui He of Wishing Well Seniors Association to build a sense of community in the building. Together as a group, the tenant representatives have looked out for everyone and supported each other through a challenging time. Na Shu Na shares that “the work they do is just helping out, and that sometimes they just knock on doors to make sure that everyone is okay. Many seniors in the building are over 90 and their children are not always nearby. As some of the ‘younger seniors’ in the building, we just help out where we can.”
Me Hui He has also helped organize many of the recreational activities held in the common areas of the building, including English, computer, singing, dancing, Chinese calligraphy, and knitting classes. She admits it was really difficult during the pandemic, and she looks forward to seeing everyone once again now that some of the restrictions are lifting. “In Canada, the government really values and cares about seniors and there are a lot of good supports,” she said. “We have a great environment and community and I hope that all seniors are able to live quality and fulfilling lives. It is so important to remember to look out for each other and I am able to help do this in my building.”
As a newer tenant representative in the building, Larry Cheung has noticed that communication with tenants, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been a challenge. This has created a role for tenant representatives who are comfortable conversing in English and other languages to act as supports for seniors in the building. They help everyone gain access to what they need in the community and to learn more about vaccinations and other new developments. “I have been able to use my technology skills to help support tenants with finding information online, and with guidance and advice constantly changing, they really need this support,” he said.
After TCHC’s 83 seniors buildings are transitioned to the Toronto Seniors Housing Corporation, tenant representatives will continue to be important as leaders in their buildings, supporting their communities in critical ways.
“It is so important to remember to look out for each other”