The Cham Refugee Center. Photo courtesy of Sabreen Abdullah.

The last few days have passed by in a whirlwind of confusion, fear, panic and uncertainty. We are all facing a common threat: COVID-19, also known as the novel Coronavirus. Each of us is coping with this in different ways. Some of us may have wiped the shelves clean, preparing an arsenal of toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer. While most are self quarantined in their homes away from friends and even family, uncertain of what the future holds. For others, sources of financial security may have been dramatically impacted. All of our lives have changed in some way.

In my own life I am trying to create peace among the panic. I am a planner, I plan out each hour of the day at the beginning of the week and it gives me a sense of control. I keep myself busy in hopes of escaping boredom. For me, the worst day is staying home and doing nothing. However, in this time I have realized how thankful I am to be able to self-quarantine in a house with a fridge that is fully stocked and internet access that has allowed me to stay connected while staying apart.

But it hasn’t been all pleasant, I have felt fear, anxiety, and anger during this time. One day I was at my cousin’s house and on the way home, I got a phone call from her telling me that her coworker has tested positive for COVID-19. At that moment I was fearful for her health and the health of my mother and aunt who both are in the vulnerable population. As my cousin self-quarantined for two weeks, I felt anxious about her going back to work. On her first day back she treated a patient that tested positive for COVID-19, and her job decided to downsize the clinic, which meant that she was laid off. I was furious. She had just been promoted and on track to graduate in Spring 2020 and her life has shifted course all because of the virus.

However, my cousin has an amazing support system, and her coworkers are going to vouch for her return. This experience has taught me the value of a strong support system in times of crisis. A support system can be defined in many ways and I have seen how community members rise to support small businesses and restaurants during the current coronavirus pandemic such as the Facebook group “Support the ID – Community United.” On that platform you can find delicious foods from restaurants that hold a special place in people’s hearts (and stomach) being shared to encourage members to support these businesses in a climate where racism towards Asian Americans is on the rise due to the negative stigma that associates China with COVID-19. The group has grown into a community that has been able to elevate the voices of the Asian American Pacific Islanders that is not portrayed in the media and allow members to virtually lend a hand to one another.

Photo courtesy of Sabreen Abdullah.

For the Cham Refugees Community in Seattle, mandates have been ordered from the Governor that lead to closure of Friday prayers at the masjid. These precautions mean that elders have lost the ability to spend their weekends socializing in Islamic classes, daily prayers and potlucks. For my aunt, weekends at the masjid are what she looks forward to at the end of the week to spend time with her friends, share meals and pray shoulder to shoulder with other women between the ages of 50-70 years old. For the group of women who rotate each week to cook food in order to fundraise for the masjid, COVID-19 has shut down their ability to do so which means that the main fundraiser for the CRC is no longer available. For the Muslim community, April 24th is predicted to be the start of the holy month of Ramadan but with masjids on hold until further notice, this is will be an interesting time for Muslims worldwide.

Photo courtesy of Sabreen Abdullah.

On the contrary, I am inspired by those who continue to serve those in need. ICNA Relief has a Seattle COVID-19 Doorstep delivery program in collaboration with many muslim organizations to provide groceries to the elderly and needy. I want to give a shout out to the people who are working during this pandemic and to encourage those of us in our homes to donate our time (if possible, money) into learning about a cause that matters and sharing it online. I also want to shout out to Cham-owned restaurants, Eyman’s Pizza and Olympic Express and hope that their cuisine gets to be in people’s homes during this time.

Photo courtesy of Sabreen Abdullah.

And I want to acknowledge the International Examiner because local journalism is so powerfu,l and as a Cham Muslim woman, I could have never imagined a platform such as this to share my story.

While it is natural to feel stress, remember to make time for activities that boost your mood, self-esteem, confidence and most importantly your immune system. I am using this time to reevaluate my relationship with myself, learning patience and how to enjoy my own company. I feel at ease knowing that we are all in this shared experience together and being able to connect in an age of internet. All we can do now is stay clean, stay hydrated and stay apart.

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