COVID-19: How the pandemic has changed the lives of these UAE residents

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Belgian expat Alain Verhoeven and his family
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Combating the deadly coronavirus has meant learning to accept changes in life with humility, respect and a generous dose of positivity, say UAE residents.

“Living the norm we once knew is a luxury today. Staying positive in an ever-changing environment, on the other hand, is the new normal. Let us accept it with all humility and gratitude,” said Walter Scalzone, an international percussionist, based in Dubai.

Alain Verhoeven, chef and food technologist

Belgian expat Alain Verhoeven, a chef and food technologist, now cherishes his time with his family more than ever. He led a busy life before the virus outbreak, spending nearly 80 per cent of his waking hours working for a living. Now, after losing his job, he said, he appreciates life more than ever.

“I live in Abu Dhabi and worked in Dubai. I used to travel everyday to work. My weekends were technically with the family, but in reality I was stuck with my laptop all the time. Then I lost my job. And my routine was taken away all of a sudden. Now I am at home all the time, helping my wife in household cooking, baking and being closer to the boys. My savings can last me months or one day as I don’t know what the future holds,” he said.

The learning:

“Covid-19 has brought a certain awareness on how we need to live now. Our lives before the pandemic was fast-paced and uncontrolled. My life is now simple, the dreams are more realistic. Going forward, when I find a job, I will definitely learn to balance work and family as the future is as mysterious as it can get, so make the best use of your present.”

Walter Scalzone, international percussionist

For Italian expat Walter Scalzone, COVID-19 has been about accepting changes and thinking out of the box in order to survive. An entertainer, live performer and percussionist, Scalzone was suddenly left without a job during the pandemic. “The entertainment industry has been hit badly. From performing 40 live shows in a month, I was down to zero.”

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Walter Scalzone
Image Credit: Supplied

“But being in the creative field, it is hard for me to rest and stay quiet. I could not help being in touch with what I love doing most — which is making music. During the pandemic, I learnt to do this for free. As an entertainer, we make good money, but for months now, nothing has been coming to the table. This has been a very humbling phase in my life.”

The learning:

“The show must go on. COVID-19 has taught me to never give up. We need to keep moving and finding creative ways to survive the ordeal. I have learnt to adapt. When you are a live performer, entertainer, you thrive on the energy and love of the people in front of you. Settling for an online version of it is something else. But I have gratitude for everything that there is. This is equally important.”

Scalzone has started an online school so to say and is teaching handpan. The website — handpan-hub.teachable.com is already seeing handpan enthusiasts enrolling.

Namita Ramani, digital marketing professional

Indian expat Namita Ramani could not agree more. Her company AboveDigital.com, a digital marketing agency in Dubai for 15 years, was struggling during the pandemic. “I reached a point in March where I was unable to pay salaries to my staff. I was going to send them all on unpaid leave. Before that, I had a sleepless night. I kept thinking how I could retain my company, one I had built with love and care. I also did not want my staff to go on unpaid leave.”

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Namita Ramani
Image Credit: Supplied

Next morning, she woke up with a bright idea. “I did not know if it will work or not. But I had nothing to lose. My chart had reached its low. The only way was up now.”

What did she do? She introduced a two-week digital marketing course. The result was a record number of clients on board within a month and the numbers are still growing. “The idea was to help small and medium business to take charge of their marketing by investing the time in learning and planning and people loved the idea. In a downturn, people are looking at ways to get out of their financial misery and do something productive.”

Today, Namita’s firm has reported a record growth of 300 per cent. “All I did was put my idea to force. It was backed by a great team and our efforts to survive in the downturn.”

The learning:

“Accept a downturn in your life with gratitude and humility. Stay positive, never give up on your goals.”

Joann Constantino, beauty therapist

Filipina expat Joann Constantino, 40, a beauty therapist, learnt to hope for the best in the past months. She lost her job in February. Being the sole earning member of her family, that included her parents and two children in Philippines, her life came crashing down. But a chance meeting with a social worker ensured she found another job. “But this was only after five months of struggle amid an environment where finding a job was as challenging as it could get.”

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Joann Constantino
Image Credit: Suppplied

The learning:

“Hope was the only thing that kept me going. Perseverance another. So never give up on your dreams.”

Reshma Salam, single mother

UAE resident Reshma Salam said she had no choice but to stay positive and hope for the best, even as she sailed through one of the toughest times during this pandemic.

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Reshma Salam with her son
Image Credit: Supplied

Who would know better about life changing for the worse during COVID-19 than Indian expat Reshma Aslam? Her father Mohammad Aslam, 54, lost his life to the virus in April. Reshma and her two sisters tested positive and the family is now in financial distress.

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Reshma’s parents
Image Credit: Supplied

Her brother, Mohammad Yusuf, 32, working in Oman, could not bid farewell to his father owing to movement restrictions. “My life and that of my family took a turn for the worse in a matter of days and I could do nothing about it. I had no control over events in my life.”

The learning:

“Life is not permanent. It is time to take charge of your present in the most realistic manner.”

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