Profiles from the community: David Baptiste

David Baptiste
Peer Researcher, The Stop’s Community Advocacy Program

David Baptiste has been a valuable member of The Stop’s community since 2013. He’s worn many hats over the years: Advocate, Mentor, Friday bingo caller—and most recently—Peer Researcher.

David is one of four Peer Researchers who’ve been working for months documenting and evaluating the last 11 years of The Stop’s Community Advocacy Program and charting its course for the future.  His amazing institutional memory has been a huge asset as we located past participants and constructed a timeline of everything the program has accomplished over more than a decade.

We’re delighted to share this peer-to-peer interview with David, conducted by Rannykay Johnson. It offers a glimpse of David’s life outside of The Stop: as a senior, father, grandfather and proud member of the Grenadian diaspora.

Q: What have you experienced during COVID?

A: It hasn’t been easy. You have to work around things. For example: going to the grocery store. Sometimes I can’t get what I want. Things like Lysol are all sold out. People stock up, leaving nothing for others. Even going to see the doctor is difficult. Getting my toe nails cut is out of the question as the doctor’s office is closed. I haven’t been to the doctor in months.

My brother passed away and I couldn’t go to his funeral. Even when he was sick and in the hospital, I could not go to visit him. I have to remind my family members to wear masks and to wash their hands frequently. The virus has been nerve racking as I am immune-compromised, so I worry when my kids go out and may bring home the virus.

I enjoyed coming to The Stop, however, this is not possible anymore. I had to learn a new way of working, working from home, which as a senior is difficult at times as I am not computer savvy.

Q: Has it been difficult being away from The Stop?

A: I miss the bingo program and the community members. I have a lot of fond memories there. Community members would be happy to see me when I showed up for the bingo program, and if I did not show up or was late, they would ask what happened to me. I used to meet twice a week at The Stop for Peer Research work, this has also stopped since the outbreak of the virus.

Q: How has the pandemic affected your income?

A: It didn’t, as I receive Old Age and CPP benefits and am not entitled to the CERB payment. I’m still able to do my hours at The Stop by working from home. My wife wasn’t able to work, so she is getting CERB. This allowed me to make my rent and provide for my family as best as I can. But the pandemic has caused additional financial difficulties as it has resulted in increased spending.

Q: Has it affected your access to food?

A: I usually visit The Stop once a month to get a hamper. I would usually go to the flea market and to West Indian stores to get my mangoes and other West Indian products. Due to the pandemic and border closures, these items have been scarce. If I happen to see these products at the West Indian stores, their prices have been drastically increased. I often would voice my objection to the increases and the unfairness of price gouging. I still had to buy these products, but I ended up purchasing less. Most of the vegetables I am still able to get. I’ve been able to get vegetables and fruits from grocery stores such as Freshco and No Frills, with only a bit of an increase in prices.

Q: How have you maintained your family connections?

A: I’m the only one of my immediate family in Canada. The rest of my brothers and sisters are in the United States. I have family back home in Grenada. I’ve kept in contact with family members through WhatsApp, phone and over Facebook.

The pandemic has affected a lot of people that I know from back home. There have been a lot of deaths of friends, acquaintances, and my brother. Conversations have been a bit longer with my family and they are more accessible and available to have conversations as some of the are off from work due to the ongoing pandemic.

Q: What has it been like having your children home every day?

Ans: I have to always keep a watchful eye and am always on the alert of what they’re doing when they go out. I remind them to wear masks and practice social distancing. Kids these days think they are invincible and nothing can harm them, but the virus has shown that this isn’t true. Kids want to sneak and go meet their friends. They often complain that it’s boring staying at home. I always ask: “You want to be bored or dead?” I have to try to help them understand that my medical conditions put me in a very vulnerable position.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic in your country of birth affected you, and how is the governmen’t dealing with mitigation?

A: If there’s any positive news with the pandemic, it’s my country. I’m from a little island in Grenada known as Carriacou. There are zero cases right now, and the government was very careful. There have been no deaths in Grenada. Even with no cases, Carriacou was shut down and citizens were cooperative with government guidelines. I’m impressed how the pandemic is being handled, by not only the government but also the people as well. The curfews, social distancing, policing and sanitization has been adhered to and followed by residents.

Q: What services would like to see implemented in Canada?

A: A bit more help for seniors and pensioners. The government sent a cheque to pensioners, but it took six weeks to arrive after it was promised. The amount given is not enough for the hardships seniors and pensioners are facing during these difficult times.

My medical health is also a concern. Before the pandemic, I usually had my blood test done every 3 months, as I am a diabetic. I was not able to do this test until recently. After doing the test I would normally see the doctor and/or the diabetic nurse. This time around I was not able to see either. It’s hard to access medical care (seeing my family doctor). Personal care is also an issue. I was not able to visit the barber due to the lock down. I haven’t been able to get a hair cut since then. I have facial hair and I try to groom myself it doesn’t come out the way it should as it is not done properly.

I believe The Stop is doing the best that they can do during these challenging times amidst the shortages of staff and available resources.

Q: What worries you the most right now?

A: Catching Coronavirus. Because of my underlying health conditionshigh blood pressure, diabetes, etc.I am extremely worried. I’ve been sanitizing at home and in my car on a regular basis. I have lots of disposable and cloth masks. I have gloves at home and Lysol. I have limited my going out and have been practicing social distancing. The pandemic has also made me more cautious, as I used to help others/friends by giving them a ride in my car. I have almost stopped doing this as the fear of the virus has me worried for my health. If I happen to give someone a ride, they have to be wearing their masks before entering the car. The virus has limited my interaction with people in general.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most?

A: I am looking forward to the day that they find a cure or a vaccine. I am looking forward to visiting family members. Spending time with family and friends, cracking a few jokes and enjoying their company. Going to barbecues with friends, and visiting friends that are sick and are not doing well. Talking over the phone is not enough, but in times like this, there is nothing else I can do. I remember when I was ill and my friends and family used to call and talk with me, it was good but having my friends and family visit me would lift my spirits, something that phone calls can’t do.

Learn more about Community Advocacy at The Stop