‘They’re familiar faces’: ETHP connects with community leaders for multilingual video campaign to keep residents safe during COVID-19

A mental health practitioner and member of Grenoble Public School’s parent council, Arshi Ali has always been an active part of her Flemingdon Park community.

So when a colleague shared a flyer with her from East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) looking for “community voices” to share important information about COVID-19 in different languages by video, she felt compelled to get involved.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to connect with the community during the pandemic,” says Arshi, who speaks English and Urdu, “especially because so many people have been feeling stress or anxiety around COVID-19.”

Arshi was one of more than a dozen community leaders who volunteered to lend their voices to the COVID-19 awareness video campaign, which was conceived by Flemingdon Health Centre (FHC) with support from TNO — The Neighbourhood Organization, Health Access Thorncliffe Park (HATP), South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) and Michael Garron Hospital (MGH).

It features community leaders, including imams, family physicians, nurses, health promoters and others in East Toronto, who have recorded more than 20 videos in languages like Arabic, Bengali, Urdu, Tagalog and Cantonese for the campaign.

The videos feature the community leaders sharing messages such as how people can protect themselves from COVID-19, when and where people should get tested for the virus and how people can prevent the spread of misinformation.

They’re being shared on social media, community WhatsApp groups and other channels to ensure residents of East Toronto, and Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park in particular, have the information they need to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19.

“We know that Flemingdon Park and Thorncliffe Park are home to many newcomers and individuals who may not speak English as a first language. And many of them may not be aware of the COVID-19 resources and supports that are available to them,” says Iman Khan, events and communications specialist at FHC.

“We wanted to make sure that this information was accessible to them in a way they could understand,” she continues. “And through speaking with our community, we heard it would be helpful to have these messages shared by fellow community members in video format. They’re familiar faces that are able to provide guidance and reassurance to their friends, families and neighbours during this difficult time.”

Dr. Mohammad Zia, chief of cardiology and interventional cardiologist at MGH, also recorded a video for the campaign in Urdu.

In it, he emphasizes the importance of following public health guidelines like wearing a mask, physical distancing and avoiding large groups and crowded places.

He says he understands some of these measures can be difficult to follow, particularly for people in South Asian and other racialized communities, many of whom are essential workers and live in multi-generational households. However, he says it’s important we remain vigilant.

“I wanted to make a difference in South Asian communities by ensuring they have the knowledge they need to remain safe and healthy during the pandemic,” says Dr. Zia. “Hopefully, by reinforcing these public health practices, we can institute change and mitigate the risks that many communities face right now.”

Nazly Sultana, program facilitator at SRCHC’s Harmony Hall Seniors Active Living Centre in Crescent Town, shares these sentiments.

She recorded a video for the COVID-19 awareness campaign in Bengali, where she also reinforced the importance of following public health guidelines.

“Everyone can watch the news or follow the news on social media, but it’s important to disseminate these messages in different languages so they can reach our communities,” Nazly says. “We’re communicating this information in a way that our neighbours can relate to.”

Sharing messages of hope and positivity is an important part of the campaign, too. Many of the community leaders urge residents to stay strong and resilient.

Some, like Arshi, share tips for combating feelings of stress, anxiety or fatigue that some may be experiencing during the pandemic.

It’s just one way ETHP is breaking down barriers to help keep its residents safe and informed. “The best way we can get through this is together,” says Arshi.

Play the video below to see the full series of videos in ETHP’s COVID-19 awareness video campaign, in languages such as as Arabic, Bengali, Urdu and Cantonese. The full list of videos can also be viewed here. We encourage you to share these videos with friends, family members and communities who speak the languages featured to raise awareness about important COVID-19 information.