Photographer: Svenja Hampel

Like many countries, Qatar has advised and now mandated that residents wear face masks outside their homes. Authorities have also asked that we reserve medical and surgical masks for health care professionals. ASD parent Svenja Hampel’s masks are filling a real need while also enabling ASD students and parents to show some school spirit or splashes of color.

Coronavirus impacts ASD parents’ lives

“I am worried.” – Dr. Amine Rakab

Health concerns

Whether you’re a parent working from home, or a parent who lost a job due to the novel COVID-19 virus, or even a parent who doesn’t work, you are scared.

According to Dr. Amine Rakab, an internal medicine physician at Hamad Hospital, “ I am worried to come home from work [at the hospital] and infect my family with the virus unintentionally.” Dr. Rakab has a daughter and wife with asthma, and his mother, who is 80 years old, lives with them at home. He is worried his family will suffer severe complications from COVID-19 if they are infected, due to their underlying conditions.

Making masks

As a parent now working from home to take precautionary measures for COVID-19, Ms. Svenja Hampel has taken time out of her day to sew some masks for her family. Ms. Hampel wanted to make wearing masks enjoyable for her kids, so she took t-shirts that had interesting designs on them and began to sew the masks.

“I needed to do this” – Svenja Hampel

Ms. Hampel states she was bored with all the extra free time on her hands since she began working from home, and she wanted to do something useful. She owned a sewing machine but had not used it in a while. She began again in the middle of March. Her first mask was red and covered the entire face.

She also makes square masks because her husband prefers those because it is more open. She makes the masks using t-shirts and has started using ASD t-shirts. She is looking for people to contribute to and donate ASD t-shirts. The masks are not for profit, yet, only for those who need them.Ms. Hampel revealed that each mask takes about 30 minutes to make without breaks or disruption. While they are not surgical masks, they do reduce the likelihood of spreading or catching the Coronavirus.

Some positives about staying home

In contrast to most people, some ASD parents believe they are benefiting from self-quarantine. Whether it’s the amount of reduced traffic, expanded work space in offices, or a change in schedule, there is a possible benefit. It’s easy to see the negatives self quarantine brings to families around the world, but Mr. Casey Scott chooses to look at the positives.

With fewer vehicles on Doha roads, Mr. Scott has enjoyed the easy commutes to work, and because most people in his office are told to stay at home, he is able to focus on his job without any distractions. However, it’s not only his job that he sees positives in.

The father of ASD students regularly stays in touch with his children even when he has needed to stay away from home to keep them safe. Even small texts can keep families feeling close. Photographer: Kelsey D.

Mr. Scott says that he is able to see his children, both high school students at ASD, more often and to spend more time with them due to stay-at-home orders. Because no one is allowed to be out and about, but rather has to stay home, it has given his family the chance to bond and become closer, moving them to understanding each other more completely.

He enjoys routine nightly walks and family fun nights. The Scott family started watching the tv series Downton Abbey, became obsessed, and now have all binged the seasons. They are close to finishing, but having the whole family downstairs in the living room all together is something the Scott family hasn’t seen often before quarantine.

While Mr. Scott understands the difficulties people have and the stresses and mental instability many report, he encourages everyone to try to look on the bright side of the situation and to find ways to have fun with your family.

Some parents have been unable to be near their children because work or other travel commitments keep them regularly far from home. Others were unexpectedly kept outside the country by travel restrictions raised by Qatar. They tried hard to stay in touch online, and they were grateful for the many technological opportunities to stay close.

Parents’ efforts to follow guidelines, stay safe

ASD Director Tom Hawkins donned gloves and a facemask to purchase groceries. (Photographer: Marcia Carlson)

Many ASD parents reported that they are doing their best to follow CDC and Qatar guidelines to keep themselves and their families, as well as the larger Doha community, safe and healthy. Almost no one traveled outside Doha for ASD’s spring break, and many did not even leave their home or housing compound. They said that they have severely reduced their shopping trips, most limiting them to only the essentials, meaning primarily grocery shopping and occasional trips to the pharmacy.

Supermarkets in Doha quickly required shoppers to be in masks and to wear gloves as well as to leave two-meter distances between customers or customers and store employees. Though most people were understandably irritated that simple grocery-shopping has become more time-consuming, everyone also understands the importance of cooperating with the overworked cashiers and busy shelf-stockers. Many have said they are happy that so much food is still available in Doha; they remember the recent scares when they worried the blockade would interrupt the food supply.

In addition to distributing gloves and masks at the entrances, Doha supermarkets have installed markings in aisles and on floors to keep shoppers safely distanced. (Photographer: Marcia Carlson)

Parents try best to mark milestones in students’ lives

ASD parents also tried their best to keep their children’s education going as smoothly as possible. Many reported making arrangements for their children to have school hours free to complete ASD class activities in the same spaces as they were trying to live and sometimes work — from their homes.

They made accommodations for their children to have Zoom conversations or to complete AP exams at night without other family members interfering with their Wifi connections or making noise. But many parents of high school students reported that they also tried to make up for other, more sentimental activities their children were missing.

High school students had no real Season 3 sports, and the annual just-for-fun Powderpuff Football game, though they still made t-shirts! and of course, the prom was cancelled. In an attempt to make some small, safe celebrations, families played games together, the Junior Senior committee planned a Virtual Pandemic Party, where students listened to a DJ, and some posed for family photos with their older children decked out in the kinds of dress they would have worn to prom. Despite the many sad disappointments, our ASD families tried hard to still celebrate important dates and events.

ASD mother Yvonne Scott keeps up with school-oriented volunteer work and manages family travel plans from home. Photographer: Jacob S.
ASD students at the same Doha housing compound collaborated to dress up but physically distance themselves in their one opportunity to dress in their would-be prom finest. Maybe next year! Photographer: Marcia Carlson
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