The emergency situation which the government declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic may be drawing to a close on Sunday, but the economic effects of the outbreak will continue to be felt for some time to come. This has stretched the regular infrastructure in Estonia to the limit, particularly, obviously, the health sector and the emergency services, as well as the not-for-profit sector.
ERR News caught up with a new project from among this last group, Meal Bridge, which mirrors similar initiatives in other countries in providing quality meals to the front-line workers, as well as keeping restaurants and other eateries occupied as customer numbers fall off. Meal Bridge in Estonia was kind enough to give us a short interview, with its spokesperson Carl Pucci.
What is the initiative, in a nutshell?
Meal Bridge Estonia supports both the healthcare and hospitality sectors during the CoVID-19 crisis, by providing warm meals from local cafes to health providers, along with a compassionate thank you note.
What prompted you to start it?
A close friend from Atlanta, Georgia sent me a link to mealbridge.com, an idea she was supporting. I immediately thought this was something that would make an impact in Estonia, where a little love goes a long way. Less than a week later, we had donated more than 70 meals to the entire staff at the Rapla regional hospital.
How does it differ, if at all, from other initiatives such as Toidupank?
We deliver cooked meals from cafes to healthcare workers, ambulance, fire/rescue, pharmacy staff, and nursing homes to show the gratitude of the community for their tremendous efforts in combating this crisis.
How have you been progressing with it so far?
There's been a tremendous boost of momentum! We have delivered fantastic, warm meals to hundreds of people, supported 12 jobs in the community cafes directly, and raised nearly €4,000 in three weeks, from both the U.S. and Estonia. Meals have been sent to nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, pharmacy workers, ambulances, fire/rescue teams, and today families in need.
What are some of the challenges?
Coordinating - which meals will go where has taken the full qualities of the finesse and gifts of our volunteers. That has been a great challenge.
Any surprises/unexpected things?
It was a great surprise to see how excited everyone has been to be part of this. From some star local cafes in Rapla County, from Pargi Resto, Eastern Outback, Reelika Cakes, and Servistor Catering, to the print shop Adograaf who have been making the thank you notes, and the delivery volunteers have been thrilling!
A funny twist for us was when we wanted to bring meals to police, fire, and ambulance staff, the police had to let us know their anti-corruption rules prevented them from receiving a meal. Talk about the opposite of all the donut fan jokes, it was really sweet when they then asked for their meals to be sent to families in need. That is what really clued us in on how to speak with social workers, and start the weekend with multiple meals for the next week for those families who have been financially affected by the pandemic crisis.
Have you been getting any support or advice from government, authorities, charities, other organizations?
This has been entirely community-led. Several key volunteers acting in their personal capacity, such as Janek Kadarik and Reelika Vabel, are part of the local development authority (RAEK) and have been instrumental in navigating who to contact. The Rotary Club of Rapla has, as a registered NGO, been accepting and distributing donations, with their members contributing tremendous financial support. The American Chamber of Commerce Estonia (AmCham) has also been a sizable contributor, and together with me personally have supported meals for pharmacy workers, and continues to support the family outreach program we began today.
What should someone do who wants to get involved?
We'd be thrilled to support anyone interested in connecting meals from cafes, to care providers in Estonia. We'd be honored to have you follow what we are doing on our Facebook page.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Compassion is the best way to fight this crisis, and that starts with every small act of kindness we can manage. You never know what a smile and wave can mean to someone.
Editor: Andrew Whyte