COVID-19 Essay by Amir, Grade 8

A boy with a surgical mask stares out into the street.

A lot of articles have been published by adults about how they are being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. But we haven’t heard as much from kids about what their experiences are like. This thoughtful and hopeful essay was written by 8th grader Amir, the son of CSI’s Accounting Clerk Fatemeh Tizhoosh. We are gratefully sharing it here with his permission.

COVID-19 is a pandemic. Billions of people are being affected and millions of people are being infected. We can’t go outside and play, school is closed and we can’t visit family and friends. The novel coronavirus has caused many loved ones to be mourned and missed. But is it as bad as it seems? Covid-19 has also caused some very good things to happen. Like a healing earth, new technology, and community engagement.

Upon the recent worldwide quarantines and lockdowns, we have collectively significantly cut down on emissions. These cutbacks are helping the ozone layer recover faster then us humans would have been able to do. That is if we were going to do anything in the first place. Anyways, the ozone layer isn’t the only part of this beautiful world we live in that’s getting better. Our oceans, rivers, and lakes they are becoming cleaner and more suitable for ocean life. Hopefully the ocean life will have a baby boom and be the start of helping the natural order of life be restored. If the natural order of life be restored it would mean that many endangered species, like polar bears, tigers, pandas, and rhinos will no longer be endangered as well as the hundreds of other endangered animals.

COVID-19 has caused many people to be anxious, stressed, lonely and possibly depressed. That’s why many companies are taking the lead in creating new apps and websites for people to go to and perhaps relieve themselves for any stresses and anxieties. Other companies and people are helping out governments to help the critically ill COVID-19 patients. In Singapore, the government had help from local tech companies to launch an app called TraceTogether. The app uses Bluetooth signals between smartphones to see if potential carriers of COVID-19 have been in close contact with other people. Thanks to these types of inventions, some countries have been able to slow down the rate of infection and focus on finding a cure.

There are countless stories of good people offering to pick up groceries or help with other tasks for neighbours — and even strangers — who are unable to leave their homes. This is one example of how many communities are coming together to help those who are more vulnerable in this emergency. Despite quarantines and social distancing, connections are still being made all around the world. During the lockdown in Italy, some of those quarantined are lifting their spirits and others through music or dance, another wonderful piece of evidence that communities are coming together to become one. To help people stay connected through this self-isolation period, some musicians and bands are offering free concerts online.

I think that if people keep doing these acts of kindness, governments across the world will see these types of actions and hopefully the world will come together as one and live in peace and happiness.

COVID-19 is scary. We should all be cautious and try to stay home as much as we can, and keep our distance when we must go outside. The novel coronavirus is an evolving situation and has caused sad things to happen like death and illness. We should not denote the severity of the situation, but we should remember that COVID-19 has caused some very good things to happen to us. Like a healing earth, new technology and community engagement.

(note: The header image we’ve used is stock photography. It does not depict the writer of this piece.)

CSI Supports: How to Apply for CESB

As COVID-19 is increasing economic uncertainty and insecurity across the country, companies are cancelling co-op placements and full-time positions alike. To support students and recent graduates, the Federal government created the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).

This taxable benefit provides eligible students with $1,250 a month for four consecutive months, from May to August 2020.

You may be able to get an additional $750 for each 4-week period if you meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You have a disability
  • You have at least one child under 12 years old, or other dependants

Before you start, make sure you check your eligibility with our handy Instagram post! Also note:

  • You cannot apply for the CESB if you have applied for CERB or EI
  • If you are currently unemployed, you will eventually have to show proof that you are actively applying for a job

If you determine that the CESB is right for you, you’ll be able to apply this weekend! Here is a screen-by-screen breakdown of what that process looks like.

Step 1: Determine your eligibility periods with the chart below.

If you are eligible for the May 10 – June 6 period, you can apply beginning Friday May 15, 2020. If you are not, you can check the earliest day you can apply here.

Step 2: Go to CRA MyAccount. You should see the screen below. Choose from one of these two options to log in. If you use online banking, you can choose “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” and sign in the same way you would to your online banking. (For the purpose of this walk-through, we will be demonstrating sign-in via sign-in partner.)

Step 3: When you click “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” you will get this pop-up. If it is your day to apply, click the “Sign-in Partner Login / Register” button again.

Step 4: Click on the logo of your bank or credit union. If your bank or credit union isn’t on the list, you will have to navigate back to the login screen and login via CRA. If you do not have a CRA login, this video shows how to sign up for one.

Step 5: You will be taken to your online banking sign-in screen, with a “Secure Key Concierge” logo in the top right corner. This is what that screen looks like for TD Canada Trust; all the interfaces are pretty similar.

Step 6: After you have logged in via your online banking details, you will be taken to a screen that looks like this. There will be a light cyan box specifically about COVID-19 Emergency Support. Click the “Apply” button in that box.

CRA Apply for Emergency Support

Step 7: Select the support payment that you’re applying for (CESB). Note that you cannot apply for CESB if you have already applied for CERB or EI!

Select a support payment

Step 8: Indicate whether or not you have a disability and/or a child under 12 or other dependants.

Step 9: You will be taken to this screen, which breaks down the Eligibility for CESB. If you meet the criteria, click on “Select a period”. A drop-down menu will appear that says “May 10, 2020 to June 6, 2020” (that will be the only option for now).

CESB Eligibility

Step 10: You will be taken to a screen to certify that you meet all of the criteria. You will need no documentation to prove your eligibility. (The $5000 you are required to have earned could have happened between either January 1 2019 to January 1 2020 or April 11 2019 to April 11 2020.)

CESB Certification of Eligibility

Step 11: You will be taken to a screen to confirm that your banking information is correct. Make sure the money is being deposited into an account you have access to! If it is not, click “update direct deposit” and navigate through that process.

CESB Confirm Direct Deposit Information

Step 12: That’s it! You’re done! You should get your deposit in three business days!

CESB Confirmation Screen

Hopefully this was helpful! Remember that you will have to re-apply for the next month! Make sure you set up a reminder on your phone, online calendar, or planner to go through the process again the week of June 8. (You will still have to be actively looking for work to remain eligible!)

We will update this doc if any part of the process changes. If you are looking for other types of information or support right now, check out CSI Supports.

CSI Supports: Resources for New and Expecting Parents

Preparing to bring a life into the world is in itself an act of hope and joy, though not without its own host of worries. With all the uncertainty brought upon by a pandemic, health concerns can get amplified.

We’ve gathered a few resources to help you wade through the sea of information, and find any help you might need.


The good news? There’s currently no evidence of mother-to-child transmission through childbirth.

However, pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase the risk of other illnesses, such as viral respiratory infections like COVID-19. That’s why pregnant families need to take precautions. This includes:

  • Physical distancing
  • Washing hands often
  • Staying at home as much as possible (e.g. seeing if you can attend medical appointments through a video call)

The Government of Canada has put together a fact sheet for new and expecting parents that you can find here.


Mommy Monitor, a CSI Spadina member, has mobilized to support Black families. They are currently conducting a survey to better understand the needs of these families!

They’ve also curated information and evidence-based recommendations for parents-to-be on their website.


Another CSI member, Birth Mark, helps pregnant people and parents from marginalized or at-risk communities navigate the entire reproductive journey.

As services for postpartum parents have decreased, Birth Mark stepped in to fill the gap. Doula on Demand is a 24/7 service, connecting Birth Mark clients to postpartum doulas. It’s a way to get emotional and evidence-based support related to coping, parenting, or taking care of yourself and your baby.


Taking care of a newborn while dealing with the realities of a pandemic is, to say the least, very stressful. When you feel frustrated, the World Health Organization suggests this brief meditation exercise:

  1. Set up: Find a comfortable sitting position, your feet flat on the floor, your hands resting in your lap. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
  2. Think, feel, body: Notice your thoughts. Notice if they are negative or positive. Notice how you feel emotionally. Notice if your feelings are happy or not. Notice how your body feels. Notice anything that hurts or is tense.
  3. Focus on your breath: Listen to your breath as it goes in and out. You can put a hand on your stomach and feel it rise and fall with each breath. You may want to say to yourself “It’s okay. Whatever it is, I am okay.” Then just listen to your breath for a while.
  4. Come back: Notice how your whole body feels. Listen to the sounds in the room.
  5. Reflect: Ask yourself “Do I feel different at all?” When you’re ready, open your eyes.

From family budgeting to talking to your kids about COVID-19, the WHO has tips for parents of all stages.

Looking for more resources? We’ve curated a number of other supports and fun #StayAtHome activities!

Header Photo by Laura Garcia from Pexels

VCIB Contributes $50,000 to CSI’s Community Resilience Fund

CSI’s goal is to ensure that no one in our community is left behind as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19. While our community was forced to lay off 27% of their staff in the first 3 weeks and another 44% are at risk, we know that the economy that they are creating is needed, now more than ever. We are committed to helping our community of changemakers thrive in the Next Economy. Now is the time for even more partnerships and creative solutions.

“As our financial partner, when VCIB called us to say that they are here for us now and in the future, I breathed a sigh of relief. When I told them of the impact on our members, they simply said, ‘We are in this together. Let’s build the Next Economy together.’ This is partnership. This is leadership. This is what change looks like! We couldn’t be happier or more grateful to be working with the amazing team at VCIB.”

— Tonya Surman, CEO of CSI

As Canada’s first and only values-driven bank, VCIB is committed to driving positive social, environmental, and economic change within the communities in which it operates. VCIB leverages the tools of finance to support social enterprises, non-profits, and purpose-driven organizations to innovate, grow, and spark change. Drawing on a shared vision for our world, VCIB and CSI have a strong bond: we are each working toward a sustainable and regenerative tomorrow – one that builds strong communities and healthy environments, and resilient people.

“Right now, VCIB is committed to focusing its resources on keeping Canadian communities and businesses financially resilient to the challenges of COVID-19. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our business landscape, and it’s through the support of social enterprises – like the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) – that these organizations have been able to grow and succeed.

That’s why VCIB is delighted to provide CSI with a $50,000 contribution. This donation will be used to offer rent relief and support to CSI member businesses, helping them to stay financially resilient, while also ensuring CSI can continue to create positive social change in its communities for the long-term.”

— Jake Stacey, Vice President of VCIB

With VCIB’s contribution, we can help support our members and community even more, ensuring that CSI can continue to catalyze, support, and inspire social innovation. This allows for a reinforced commitment to social mission programming, offered by CSI or by our members, which will help make the COVID-19 recovery swift, strong and heading in the right direction.

Restarting the economy — when it happens — will come in waves, a gradual reopening that will leave us all vulnerable for months ahead. Our Community Resilience Fund is an emergency measure to see us through this crisis. The fund describes what it truly means to rely on community: members helping members, and donors who believe in contributing to CSI to help us all get through this period. Help us match VCIB’s donation, because we’re in this together!

CSI Supports: What is the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy?

As COVID-19 touches nearly every aspect of the economy, the federal government has been working to mitigate some of the impacts. For Canadian workers (include the self-employed), the Canada Emergency Response Benefit offers $2000 a month for those who have seen their income reduced to less than $1000 a month due to COVID-19.

If you operate a business or not-for-profit that has lost money because of the pandemic, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy could help. The CEWS will pay 75% of employee wages on the first $58700 that an employee earns, up to a maximum of $847 a week, for employers who have seen the required reduction in revenue.

Those revenue reductions are explained below:

To be eligible to receive the wage subsidy, you must:

  • Be an eligible employer
  • Have experienced an eligible reduction in revenue, and
  • Have had a CRA payroll account on March 15, 2020

Eligible remuneration includes amounts you paid an employee including:

  • Salary
  • Wages
  • Other taxable benefits
  • Fees and commissions.

Eligible employees don’t have to live in Canada, but they have to be employed in Canada by an eligible employer during the claim period.


  • Employees who have been laid off or furloughed can become eligible retroactively
  • Their retroactive pay and status meet the eligibility criteria for the claim period
  • You must rehire and pay such employees before you include them in your calculation for the subsidy

To get a sense of what kind of support your business or organization could get from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, this calculator tool will help you estimate the amount of your wage subsidy.

You will be asked for information such as the number of eligible employees and gross payroll, and will be able to preview your subsidy claim, based on information you enter.

As we did for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, we will soon be offering a step-by-step guide through the application process.

COVID’s impact on Canadian small business

If your physically-distant walks are taking you down any downtown streets, you are probably seeing a lot of closed-up storefronts. It is alarming how many of the businesses we love may not be around to welcome us back after COVID-19. was created by a group of volunteers in collaboration with a grassroots coalition of small businesses. They have created an interactive map to track the status of threatened small businesses across Canada.

We have zoomed in on the to create this screencap of the downtown Toronto core, you can click through to get more detail about what has already closed, what is very likely to close, and what is somewhat likely to close:

Looking at the numbers for the whole country, the impact of COVID-19 will be severe. So far, this is what has been reported to the site:

  • 74 businesses permanently closed (671 impacted)
  • 494 businesses very likely to close (4,356 impacted)
  • 427 businesses somewhat likely to close (4,850 impacted)

We know the numbers are likely much higher. So far, 7.5 million workers across the country have applied for the Canada Emergency Response benefit, and thousands of employers have applied for Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy support.

The federal government has also announced a 75% commercial rent support. But this will only happen if the Provinces can come together to get it done. You can send a message to your elected provincial representatives to help make that happen.

And if you are a small business owner whose business has already closed, or is likely to close soon without further supports, please fill out this survey to be added to the map.


Longread: Being a Personal Support Worker during a pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis is impacting all of us, but some people are feeling the impacts more than others. Personal Support Workers in particular are navigating a combination of increasingly urgent work that is at the same time increasingly dangerous.

Toronto health and science writer Wendy Glauser spoke to two PSWs — one sick with COVID-19 and the other having lost a quarter of her income — to get a sense of what life is like right now for those who care for our most vulnerable.


PSWs start at $16.50 an hour. Both Gilbert and Turney are senior PSWs, so they’ve reached the maximum wage, $19 an hour. But it’s not enough, especially considering they’re not adequately compensated for travel time between clients. By Gilbert’s calculations, she loses almost three hours a day in unpaid time on transit, because her employer pays travel time according to how long it would take in a car. “Every day, you hear about the frontline worker, ‘We thank you, we thank you,’” says Turney. But while grocery workers are getting a raise, and other frontline employees like police officers are getting one-time bonuses due to the additional risk, many PSWs are effectively seeing a salary cut.

Ferrier wants to make it clear that PSWs are more than willing to do their part. “We have PSWs working in long-term care homes who are self-isolating away from their families,” says Ferrier, who recently sent take-out to a house that four PSWs are temporarily sharing to avoid spreading the disease to their loved ones. In other cases, PSWs who have seen their home care clients dry up have taken on temporary contracts in long-term care homes that are short-staffed because of outbreaks. On Friday, Christine Mandegarian, a PSW working in a Scarborough nursing home, became the first PSW to die from COVID-19. “They’re marching in droves towards the front of the frontlines of health care,” says Ferrier.

If you want to be part of improving working conditions for everyone, 15 and Fairness would love your support.

How are Canadians coping with COVID-19?

Without current and reliable information, no levels of government will be able to effectively assess what our communities need. This is especially true in these unprecedented times.

Getting a sense of how people across the country are coping with COVID-19 is crucial for identifying and implementing suitable support measures during and after the pandemic.

So these strange times, you can do something important for your family, friends, neighbours and community. Take five minutes to participate in Statistic Canada’s data collection on the Impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians.

Here is some of the data this survey has revealed so far:

  • Unemployment increased by 413,000 (36.4%) largely due to temporary layoffs
  • This is the largest increase since comparable data became available in 1976
  • 35% of Canadian workers worry that they might lose their job or self-employment income in the next month
  • 41% of youth aged 15 to 24 feel insecure about their continued employment
  • 29% of Canadians say COVID-19 is having an impact on their ability to meet essential expenses
  • 47% of Canadians reported that COVID-19 is having little to no impact on their finances
  • 24% of Canadians report that it is too soon to tell how it will go for them
  • Canadians feeling financial impacts of COVID-19 are twice as likely to also report poor mental health

Further data has been collected into this infographic:


CSI knows physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing, so we are here for you – now more than ever – with the support you need.

CSI Supports: A toast to what comes next

On Friday, April 3rd, a few weeks after closing the space, members gathered for our traditional once a month toast to close out a week. The following is a slightly edited version a toast delivered by Stefan Hostetter, the Community Manager at CSI Spadina.

A toast to what comes next. 

If I can ask you for a second, to imagine yourself standing on the edge of a deep valley. The winding road disappears into the tree tops below and the other side barely visible, fading into the horizon.

We began our descent a few weeks ago as the pandemic began to impact every aspect of our lives, and today, we find ourselves halfway down. Each part of this journey will be perilous in its own way, but today, I’m particularly struck by the loss of the future.

To carry on the metaphor, the world is so uncertain that we can’t see beyond the next turn in the road, but we’ve also lost sight of other side obscured by the trees and angle as we look up. And I personally have found this incredibly disorienting, it feels impossible to imagine myself next week, or next month.

I am struck both by how much we do not know about the depths of this valley, the dangers and difficulties we will face as we continue this descent, but also by the fact that at some point likely months away, there we will be, standing on the other side of this. Looking back yes, acknowledging all that was lost, but looking forward too, looking forward to what comes next.

We as individuals but also as a society shall be irreparably changed by this path. This virus is highlighting the cracks in our society, breaking them open for all to see. And if we spend this time now, this time on the path without a future, deepening our roots, and working together, I am truly hopeful that we can make what comes next beautiful. A place where we prioritize the wellbeing of people, care for our communities, and protect our most vulnerable.

As we descend into the darkness, I see examples of light everywhere I look. People everywhere are carrying torches to brighten the way for those who cannot. We are living these values today, may we continue to do so tomorrow.

And so here is to the crest of the horizon that we cannot see, and what lies beyond. Our future is uncertain, but in all of you I have hope. So a toast, to what comes next.

CSI knows physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social distancing, so we are here for you – now more than ever – with the support you need.

Ontario’s nonprofits and charities are facing a triple threat

A small plant growing from an old tree trunk.

In addition to the disorienting reality of navigating change-making during a pandemic, Ontario’s nonprofits and charities are also facing:

  1. An abrupt loss of revenue from the cancellation of fundraising events and a steep drop-off in donations
  2. The closure of offices and cancellation of programs and services due to pandemic restrictions
  3. Unprecedented human resource challenges in terms of both paid staff and volunteers.

To track the real-life impact of these challenges, The Ontario Nonprofit Network conducted a flash survey to examine how organizations across Ontario are dealing with COVID-19.

Here are some of the key findings.


    • Over three-quarters of respondents have experienced disruption of services to clients and communities
    • Almost one in five nonprofits have closed their doors – at least for now -because of the pandemic or are making plans to do so.


    • Close to 75 per cent of respondents have seen reduced revenue from fundraising, with the hard-hit arts sector reporting an 81 per cent reduction in ticket and event sales
    • The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost 43% of organizations between $50,000 and $249,999 each. Another 10% estimate the financial impact to be $1 million or more.


  • Nonprofits are experiencing staff and volunteer absences of 35% due to concerns about contagion in doing their work.
  • Many respondents from nonprofits performing essential services — including community health organizations and long-term care homes — commented on a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • One third of respondents indicated that their organization has either reduced hours for workers or laid off staff. The pandemic has been particularly devastating for workers in arts and culture, sports and recreation, child care, and nonprofit social enterprises


  • Social services: 93% of respondents have experienced or anticipate a disruption in service to clients and community
  • Employment and training: 48% have laid off or will have to lay off staff
  • Arts and culture: There has been an 81% reduction in ticket and event sales
  • Social enterprises: Courier, catering, and retail social enterprises that often employ people with barriers to the labour market have closed their doors for the duration
  • Health: 31% have resources to sustain their organizations for only the next three to six months, while 38% are unsure how long their resources will last because of the unpredictable nature of the pandemic and its effects on physical and mental health


Read the full report here.