A mosaic of faces fill the computer screen as our PEPS group meeting begins. It’s our last meeting and I had planned to spend some time reflecting on how this vulnerable, funny, and supportive group of parents have changed and grown together. Tonight, we’re still doing that – except we’ll now be meeting by video chat, in response to our concerns at PEPS about COVID-19 and our efforts towards prevention and protection.
Like so many of us right now, I have a range of conflicting feelings about the recent developments. I’m sad to let go of the celebration that I had planned for this group. I’m grateful for the technology that has allowed us to connect in spite of the developing obstacles. During “Snowmageddon”, back in February 2019, I was able to lead a different PEPS group meeting over video chat and while these are different circumstances, I’m grateful that we have a variety of options available to us for human contact during difficult times such as this.
Working for PEPS has reinforced something that I already knew; we need each other. Human creatures have a longing for connection and support that impacts us in ways we can see and measure, and also in ways we can only feel in our bones. There are times and stages of life when this is more pronounced; during times of great change, immense stress, and profound joy. The early stages of parenting a newborn combine all three of these factors. I would say that living in a time of global epidemic/pandemic does as well. The PEPS staff have been working hard behind the scenes – and in front of our computer monitor cameras – to support PEPS groups and group leaders as we transfer all of our current groups to online, virtual meetings. Admittedly, it has been a bit of a bumpy road as we navigate how to pivot and adapt, and it has been so inspiring to see our leaders jump in with both feet to figure this out alongside PEPS staff and participants. What’s been resulting is a beautiful merging of human connections with our wide-ranging technical abilities, that is a hopeful sign of these uncertain times we’re in.
PEPS Group Leaders have been partnering with our staff, learning new technologies and platforms like Zoom and Google+, figuring out how to discuss weekly topics and deliver Developmental Moments virtually. Of course, like so many other structural injustices existing in current society, we know that not every parent has access to all of the tools and resources their families need. We are working, listening, learning, and adapting; maintaining our commitment to equity and trouble-shooting to find ways to support parents and leaders without strong internet connection or have other logistical and structural challenges. Similar to many of the topics we discuss in our PEPS meetings, parents might feel a full range of emotions and opinions about the most recent recommendations, their personal level of risk and comfort, and the challenges and opportunities of meeting virtually.
At PEPS, we believe strongly in the power of sharing honestly, and holding space for all feelings and different perspectives. We strive to create a space for respectful disagreement and honoring those differences. We believe, now more than ever, in the power of connection, the power of listening to each other, and the immense relief in knowing that we have the support of a caring and passionate community.
About the Author
Polly Jirkovsky is super excited to work on outreach and expansion as the Community Connector for the Southern Region. Polly has worked at a variety of nonprofits in the Seattle area, working on issues of homelessness and harm reduction.
She wants to continue learning about the connections between oppression, isolation and health disparities, and believes that communities have the power to heal and strengthen. She has led over 20 PEPS groups including Newborn, Baby Peppers and Little Peppers.