My Approach to Handling the COVID-19 Crisis

My Approach to Handling the COVID-19 Crisis

My Approach to Handling the COVID-19 Crisis

It has been a little over a month since I worked in the Gasp office. Like many of you, I am yearning to know when we will resume being in one another’s physical presence. Meanwhile, the Gasp staff is adjusting because our work continues. If you haven’t already, check out Earth Month 2020: Rising Tide for Climate Justice on Facebook and recent blog posts on our website.

It is interesting to read about what others are doing during these unprecedented times. Here is a glimpse into what my month has been like (outside of work) and how I’m coping with this new normal.

Practice Gratitude

To me, the most important variable dictating how you navigate this stressful pandemic is whether or not you can provide for yourself and your family. My husband and I have not lost our jobs. We come from a privileged background. We can provide for our kids. For this, I am grateful. Soon after I had my first child (who is now 18) and became a stay-at-home mom, a dear friend gifted me the book, A Simple Abundance. It changed my life. Since reading it, I have drawn on the principle of gratitude when I think I’m having a bad day, or living through a pandemic.

Cooking

It is helpful that I enjoy cooking given that our 16 and 18 year old boys are home 24/7 now. Developing and executing a meal plan for our house (a task I willfully reign over) is my third part-time job. Given that our 6’5″, 18 year old (temporarily home from college) is an intense exerciser, he is consuming a vast amount of calories daily, adding to the challenge. At times, meal preparation, and all that accompanies it, does take on a chore-like feeling. However, having an appreciation for both the food itself and cooking for my kid who has been gone for the past 9 months, brings me joy.

Walking

I am continuing my daily practice of walking. After a cup of coffee early in the morning, I walk our dog about 2-3 miles. I don’t listen to anything except the morning birds and try to keep my mind clear. (I say try because it’s not always easy!) These walks are a form of meditation for me. Check out the science behind the mental health benefits of exercise.

Gardening

Exerting energy and keeping my hands busy (other than on a keyboard) brings some peace. I have enjoyed tending to a vegetable and herb garden since my late grandmother-in-law taught me how to garden after my husband and I bought our first house in 1996. Typically, I end up putting plants in the ground around the end of April, but was inspired to plant seeds this year in early March (thanks to my sister-in-law for sharing seeds), right before the pandemic hit. The Seeds of Sovereignty campaign serves as an inspiration — I hope you’ll check it out!

Sewing

Due to how shockingly unprepared our country was for this pandemic, the need for PPE (personal protective equipment) has become painfully obvious. A group of amazing local women formed a Facebook group called Bham Face Masks.

They’re encouraging sewers of all levels to jump in and fill the gap. They provide videos, technical tips and endless support. They’re even working with the Jefferson County Department of Health to provide masks to health care providers across the county. They inspired me to dust off my sewing machine.

After troubleshooting thread nests and poorly wound bobbins I finally started making masks. Listening to the humming of the machine, ironing a crisp double hem, and knowing that my finished product might help someone, is extremely satisfying. 

Meet Rose Albert, Spring Intern for Gasp

Meet Rose Albert, Spring Intern for Gasp

Meet Rose Albert, Spring Intern for Gasp

Rose is serving as Gasp’s Community Science Intern

What is your major at UAB and why did you choose it?  I chose to major in chemistry at UAB because I appreciate its explanations for the physical world. A foundational understanding of chemistry is applicable to other sciences and career pathways I am considering. I am also pursuing a Master of Public Health with a Concentration in Environmental Health because where we live is inextricably linked to our health and well being. 

What do you hope to do after you graduate? After graduation, I plan to work or travel abroad before I continue my education. During this time my goal would be to learn about environmental sustainability in other countries. 

What is your dream job? My dream job is to work with communities as a researcher and environmental health scientist.

What do you hope to learn while interning with Gasp? I would like to learn how to communicate science to make data accessible to the general public. I am a firm believer that science is for everyone, and anyone can be a scientist. Through this experience, I hope to better listen to the narratives of those impacted by the environmental issues we are addressing. 

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you? Air pollution is a time-sensitive issue that is directly impacting individuals’ lives, and some at a grossly disproportionate rate. As a resident of Birmingham, I feel a responsibility to positively contribute to our community and help improve the air quality.

What is your favorite food? After two summers of working at an ice cream shop in Chattanooga, ice cream is still by far my favorite food. My top choices are coconut almond chunk, mayan chocolate, and pistachio. 

What are your hobbies? I enjoy rock climbing, knitting, reading, and shopping secondhand. 

Who or what are your influences? My high school science teacher was a key figure in helping me realize that I could become a scientist. His environmental science course first taught me the depth and variety of contemporary issues in sustainability, and he continually encouraged me throughout my college application process as I considered careers in science. Without him, I cannot imagine where I would be or what I would be doing right now. I am also influenced by the books I read, notably Moment of Lift, Mindset, Garbology, The Best Nonrequired Reading of 2014, The Bell Jar, and The Goldfinch.  

What are some other fun facts about yourself? If I had to choose one decade of music, it would be the 70s. In high school, I taught myself how to cut hair. After school I would offer free haircuts in the back of the science lab for practice. I am from Chattanooga, TN. 

 

Thanks to our Volunteers

Thanks to our Volunteers

Thanks to our Volunteers

Seven days ago was a busy day. Brodie (intern) and I worked the Gasp table at UAB’s Community Matching Event (giving students an opportunity to meet local non-profits). I left Brodie to handle the table and rushed back to our office to meet with a new volunteer, who was anxious to dive in and help Gasp with our busy spring ahead. Nina had calls scheduled and meetings to attend, Michael was in Montgomery for the PSC hearings all week, and Haley was covered up with deadlines. Nina and I touched base about Earth Month and I worked on updating our Spring Volunteer Opportunities Sign up Form to include in this post. A lot of events needed to be added to the form as our calendar was quickly filling up with multiple events for Earth Month, tabling at markets/festivals and some requests for speaking engagements. Wednesdays are also when Ben Moose, our high school intern, comes in for his work study hours. We discussed his research regarding where the Weather Channel app gets their ambient air quality data, which is fascinating. The office was bustling with activity, meetings and important tasks, which was not unusual. This was seven days ago.

Interns Ale and Ben and UAB student/volunteer Aakruti work on our Spring Newsletter in the Gasp office kitchen.

Our team hopped on a Zoom call yesterday, and hearing and seeing my colleagues through the computer screen was comforting. I missed our usual staff gathering at our crowed, round table in the office kitchen, but regrouping with them was therapeutic. We talked, vented, brainstormed and commiserated over COVID-19 and life for awhile.

You will be hearing more from Gasp staff as we quickly transition in this new environment. We are figuring out how to best serve our constituents during this unsettling time while reminding people how broken systems in our society are hurting people and the planet. (We didn’t waste any time, did you see this action?)

What hasn’t changed is the need for people, who care about their neighbor’s health, to be engaged. Small non-profits with big missions need a lot of help, especially right now. Thankfully, we have a solid base of volunteers at Gasp. Our Board of Directors and Junior Board are two formal entities who meet regularly and invest significant time into supporting Gasp’s mission. Gasp’s work is also aided by a diverse group of individuals from high school students to retirees, who invest their time to further Gasp’s mission. We are incredibly appreciative of all our volunteers.

As you may know, we launched a competitive, Volunteer Spring Internship Program and six candidates out of 21 applicants were chosen as interns this spring semester. While a lot of their work was abruptly halted by COVID-19, they continue to help with various projects remotely during the pandemic. Be on the lookout for upcoming posts introducing our Spring interns. You will meet: Rose Albert, Alejandra Guaddarama, Ben Moose, Matt Odendahl, Mimi Tran and Brodie Zalanka. Thanks to all of these young people for volunteering their time with Gasp. Be safe and be well. 

 

Gasp Seeks Five Volunteer Interns for Spring Semester

Gasp Seeks Five Volunteer Interns for Spring Semester

Gasp Seeks Five Volunteer Interns for Spring Semester

Gasp is seeking to fill five unpaid internship positions for the 2020 spring semester.

Positions include:

Description of Internships: Click on hyperlink in title above

Deadline to Apply: January 17, 2020

Compensation: Unpaid (course credit may be available through your school) 
We hope to offer paid internships in the future. Please contact Michael Hansen at 205-701-4270 or [email protected] if you are interested in providing funding.

Dates of Internship: February 3 – May 15

Hours: 8-10 hours weekly. Intern will set their own schedule, including at least 4 hours per week at our office (2320 Highland Avenue S, Suite 270, Birmingham, AL 35205)

How to Apply: Send a resume and 1-page cover letter to [email protected]

Who Should Apply?

  • High school and college students who are at least 16 years old and are seeking opportunities to fulfill service learning or community service requirements (Check with your educational institution to learn about receiving course credit for your internship.)
  • Students who are seeking experience with a non-profit, health advocacy organization
  • Anyone who is passionate about Gasp’s mission and vision and seeks to better understand our work

The ideal candidates must have a strong commitment to Gasp’s mission to advance healthy air and environmental justice in the Greater-Birmingham area through education, advocacy and collaboration.

If you are not able to commit to an internship this spring, but want to volunteer for Gasp informally, please fill out the Volunteer Interest Form and a representative will be in contact with you promptly. Thank you!

About Gasp

Gasp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to advance healthy air and environmental justice in the Greater-Birmingham area through education, advocacy and collaboration. We strive to reduce air pollution, to educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality and to encourage community leaders to serve as role models for clean air and clean energy development.

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Vantsevich

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Vantsevich

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Vantsevich

Why I Chose to Get Involved
by Anna Vantsevich

Here’s the thing. We all share the air. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in, it doesn’t matter what state you live in, or what country for that matter. Air circulates and moves. It’s quality affects every single person, even those that have the privilege to live in areas that currently have better air quality and top-notch air filter systems at home. Every single person is affected by air, either immediately or in the long run. This is the main reason that I chose to get involved with Gasp, the group that believes everyone deserves healthy air.

Hi, my name is Anna and to say that I love being outdoors would be an understatement.

I LOVE being outdoors. And this trait seems to be in my blood.

My great-grandfather was a forester in Dobrush, Belarus. One of my favorite stories of him is how he would bring back edible nuts for my mom, a young girl at the time, saying that a squirrel sent her the tasty treat as a gift.

My mom inherited this love for nature and passed it on to me. From the day I was brought home from the hospital, my mom took me for walks in a nearby forest Every. Single. Day. – rain, snow, sleet or shine.

Me, the bundle, and my beautiful Mom.

As I grew up, this love for being out in the sun (or rain, or wind, or snow), didn’t change.

Enjoying Red Rock Canyon (and LOTS of sunscreen), Nevada

Having fun at the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Since I couldn’t do a cool yoga pose, I went for the classic boat pose. Look at that form! 😄

But you don’t have to travel far from home to enjoy the great outdoors!

Red Mountain Park, right here in Birmingham, is one of my favorite hikes.

During my travels I started to read about the environment — and about air quality. It’s difficult to see the quality of air, which is why I think its importance is easy to dismiss, but poor air quality is felt by our health, our environment and our economy. For example, did you know that United States loses approximately $150 billion per year to air pollution-related illnesses? Not to mention that poor air quality leads to an estimated 60,000 premature deaths in the USA every year. [1]

There are huge losses associated with air-pollution. Just as there are huge gains associated with healthy air. That’s why we need to talk about both. I look forward to exploring these topics (and more!) in upcoming blogs.

In the meantime, take a deep breath in through the nose imagining fresh, healthy air coming into your body. As you exhale through the mouth, breathe out any grogginess you feel. Repeat a few more times to bring lightness and clearness into your body and mind.

Till next time.

Wishing you joy, safety and ease,
Anna

References
[1] https://www.weather.gov/safety/airquality

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