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Lack of human connection during pandemic hit hard at non-profit that helps local women

Atira Women’s Society provides essential services to women in need in Surrey and Vancouver
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Kuruneri worked in Vancouver until February 2022, when she transitioned to the job of director of transitional housing for Atira in Surrey. (Submitted photo)

At the height of the pandemic and lockdowns, Kagowa Kuruneri and her colleagues could not work from home.

They were frontline workers, providing essential services to women in need in Surrey and Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Kuruneri was a lawyer before joining Atira Women’s Society, a non-profit that aims to help end violence against women.

As it did with many people, the pandemic provided a time for Kuruneri to make a career change. When a position opened up at Atira in Vancouver, it seemed like the right fit.

Kuruneri worked in Vancouver until February 2022, when she transitioned to the job of director of transitional housing for Atira in Surrey.

The lack of human connection during the lockdowns had a strong impact on the people Kuruneri was working with. She said more people were abusing substances, and there was a hike in anxiety and depression.

During the pandemic, some of Atira’s services operated 24 hours a day instead of the usual 12.

Kuruneri said there was also an increase in domestic violence during that time.

“There were some women who actually did make a decision to go back to their abusive partners during that time, because they didn’t want to isolate alone.”

The group Mothers for Recovery was also hit hard. Staff were not able to interact with the mothers and their babies. Kuruneri said this lead to an increase in anxiety and depression. During that time, a big challenge was to navigate taking care of their staff and ensure they did not burn out while providing services.

Today, all the programs that started during the pandemic have remained, only the hours they operate have changed.



anna.burns@surreynowleader.com

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For more information, visit atira.bc.ca.



Anna Burns

About the Author: Anna Burns

I cover health care, non-profits and social issues-related topics for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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