Imagine being homebound in a tenement walk-up, cut off from your community and culture, with little access to news about the global pandemic sweeping the city. Into this extraordinary isolation and anxiety comes beautiful music and the memories and hopes it inspires, all courtesy of VNSNY’s Chinatown Community Center in partnership with Si-Yo Music Society Foundation, Inc. through its program, Si-Yo Musical Phone Pal™.
“Music is a universal language,” said Carrie N., manager of VNSNY’s Asian Community Centers. “It has a healing power that can help us escape from the current health crisis.”
Although the Chinatown Community Center temporarily closed its physical location due to COVID-19, staff members continued to answer phone calls, deliver masks, and run virtual programming that kept the Center’s members connected to care, community and culture during challenging times.
One such program, Si-Yo Musical Phone Pal™, featured biweekly virtual concerts with Si-Yo Artists™. “As our members listen, you can see from the expression on their faces that old memories are coming back, and they’re able to relax for a few minutes,” Carrie explained. VNSNY’s Neighborhood Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NNORC), which shares a building with the Community Center, is also dedicated to supporting Chinatown’s frail elders. From the onset of the pandemic, NNORC nurse Xiang J. and his colleagues called every member to connect them to care and teach them about the virus. “I explain everything about COVID-19 to them, how to prevent it and what to do if they have symptoms,” said Xiang, who speaks Cantonese and Mandarin as well as English. “I’m not only teaching members—they go on and teach their families.”
*Patient and family names have been changed to protect privacy
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