What is the impact of the crisis on your work?
It makes me think - with many others in the field - on how we can use restorative approaches in times of crises. How we can connect in different ways and provide support for vulnerable persons and those in need. And how can we cope with a pandemic crises this big, that takes so many people’s lives, something we have never experienced before.
Of course the new reality influences also our daily work. I was supposed to give some trainings these weeks to prison personnel on how they can make their work more restorative and victim friendly. It also makes me think of how the prisons and juvenile correctional centres are coping these days. Colleagues there say the detainees cannot receive visitors and the rehabilitative programmes have been reduced to the minimum, which implies more time alone in their own small cell.
Many international events and meetings have been cancelled. I was supposed to give a lecture in Russia next week, and I was supposed to travel to Greece for one of the two European projects I am working on: all have been postponed or cancelled. Same for our internal meetings at Restorative Justice Nederland, but we continue the work and have meetings online.
In this period, I had planned to keep writing for a book on children rights and restorative justice. You would think that I have enough time for that now, but I must say that it is not so easy to find the right focus to write. First, with a friend who died, but also with what is happening around us. It does influence the mind and makes me also wonder how important is that book, are there other things I can do now for society and people around me? I do it now in simple things as taking a bit extra care for people who live on their own for example, check on them and share some tips for food, or book or films.
The Netherlands is among the most affected countries at the moment. How is the country coping with the crisis?
It is indeed serious and not yet at its peak. The figures of April 8 we have 7735 people hospitalised with the Covid-19, and 2248 people died. It is also clear that we need more ICU beds in the coming period. The situation is monitored on a daily basis and scientific experts share their views. Our prime minister had to announce last week again that the date for social distancing, the closure of schools, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers, physiotherapists continues until at least 28 April and that we better not make any travel plans for our May holiday. In general, I think, people are happy in the way our prime minister and the minister for health share the policy by involving the medical experts, by learning from abroad, by taking the time to explain and adapt to the changing situations. Also how compassionate our king Willem Alexander spoke to the whole nation last week, with paying additional attention to children, was valued widely. You see that solidarity increases, my hope is that it stays this way. At the same time it is difficult to be sure if our policy is the right thing, also when we see that some neighbouring countries have a more strict lock down.
In and around health care people are working really hard to take care of patients. Some hotels and other big halls or places are now being made into additional hospital rooms. Many volunteers are helping. One of my friends who has less work now since all her trainings have been cancelled, started voluntarily shifts at the blood donor organisation. I am proud of her and of other friends; one of them provides continuous online consultations to girls who have suicide problems (and face to face sessions in case of very serious situations), and another friend is already preparing herself and her osteopathy colleagues for the period to come when people will get out of the hospital.