May 28, 2020

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Opinion

A warm, winter hug

Rashmi Saxena and her family moved to Winnipeg only weeks ago, but the big-hearted bundle of energy is already making a difference

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Rashmi Saxena (right), husband Ankur Aneja, and son Kabir, moved to Winnipeg in January. Saxena has established We Got This — Winnipeg, a Facebook group that helps connect people with assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rashmi Saxena (right), husband Ankur Aneja, and son Kabir, moved to Winnipeg in January. Saxena has established We Got This — Winnipeg, a Facebook group that helps connect people with assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Manitoba, Rashmi Saxena and her husband started doing what they could to check on their neighbours and help the people in their community.

Still, Saxena felt she could do more.

On March 13, she created We Got This — Winnipeg, a Facebook group where people can seek or offer information, assistance and supplies during this time of social distancing.

Within two days, 1,000 people had joined the group. Now, it has more than 2,000 members.

In one post, a retired nurse offered to do laundry for single parents and elderly people who don’t have laundry facilities in their apartments.

In another post, an educational assistant with more than 20 years of experience offered to give resources and support to parents who are at home full time with their kids.

People have asked for diapers or help with their employment insurance applications.

"People are taking, but they’re also giving back," Saxena says. "We’re already witnessing a sense of community. People are coming together."

The 39-year-old human-resources professional was born and raised in Meerut, a city in India located two hours northeast of New Delhi.

She credits her parents with teaching her "you get what you give."

Saxena and her husband Ankur Aneja moved to the United States in 2007. They relocated a few times as a result of Aneja’s work as an IT consultant, including stints in Atlanta, and Petaluma, Calif.

They moved to Winnipeg from South Brunswick, N.J., in January with their eight-year-old son, Kabir.

"(Winnipeg) is great," Saxena says. "People are really friendly. The only thing we’re trying to get used to is the weather."

Saxena is no stranger to volunteering. In Petaluma, she was involved with the parent-teacher association at her son’s school.

"I believe very strongly that kindness goes a long way... and we should have each other's backs in times of need."‐ Rashmi Saxena

She also started a support group on Facebook where Indians living in Sonoma County can make new friends, exchange information and organize get-togethers.

The COVID-19 pandemic is scary, she says, adding she tries to limit her new exposure to updates on what’s happening in Winnipeg.

"We are a little anxious about how it is going to turn out, and we are praying that this passes quickly," she says.

In the meantime, the family is practising proper hygiene and social distancing, purchasing only as much as they need and trying to help others any way they can.

They recently spent a day distributing care packages and food to Winnipeggers in need.

After two weeks of monitoring the We Got This — Winnipeg group, Saxena sees two needs that she wants to highlight.

First, she asks that people or schools with extra laptops or iPads donate them to children who are now getting their education at home and don’t already have access to this technology.

Second, she has noticed people are struggling to find places to quarantine themselves.

"If we can get some help finding people places to self-quarantine, I think that would be great," she says.

"I believe very strongly that kindness goes a long way... and we should have each other’s backs in times of need."

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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