In a whirlwind of a year, Sarah Shaw and her husband met, married, moved to Victoria and bought a sailboat that they plan to move onto in April. (Courtesy of Sarah Shaw)

In a whirlwind of a year, Sarah Shaw and her husband met, married, moved to Victoria and bought a sailboat that they plan to move onto in April. (Courtesy of Sarah Shaw)

Silver linings: Vancouver Islanders share their positive pandemic experiences

Health risks, social isolation and economic impact real, but some people have found a bright side

Job and food insecurity, worsening mental health, and increased domestic violence and loss are some of the hardships faced by Greater Victoria residents this year.

Amidst it all though, there have been positive stories, too. For some people, the pandemic was the impetus they needed to start something new or make a change for the better.

Here is a small selection of the good things this year has brought about.

Brett Smith-Daniels

Brett Smith-Daniels is releasing “Teenagers from Mars?”, the first single of his collective album, on Spotify on Jan. 15. (Courtesy of Wendhi Gale)

Working paycheque to paycheque as a full-time musician, Brett Smith-Daniels had never had the time to sit down and record a full album.

Then COVID-19 hit, and he lost 170 gigs. The 24-year-old decided to turn to technology. As a live musician the idea had never clicked with him before but, equipped with an iPad, a small home studio and a sudden abundance of time, Smith-Daniels was soon fully absorbed.

“It’s really opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t think existed really,” he said.

Soon, Smith-Daniels was connecting with Grammy-winning audio engineers through SoundBetter, an online music production marketplace, and having musicians from the States and the U.K. record tracks for his songs based off renderings he sent from his iPad.

The resulting work is a concept album, combining rock, ’90s alternative, hip hop and contemporary influences, called “Disenchanted Youth.” It will touch on various topics related to modern life, such as the post-fact era, the political divide between young and old, and the effect of social media on mental health.

Smith-Daniels has decided to release each one individually, six weeks apart throughout the new year.

His first song “Teenagers from Mars?” is set to release on Spotify on Jan. 15. It can be pre-saved here.

Erin Maher

Erin Maher launched Heartbeat Supply Co. this year, a local foodbox delivery company. (Courtesy of Erin Maher)

Navigating through the grocery store with her daughter in the early spring, Erin Maher was struck with the level of stress she felt – not just because of the early public mayhem of the pandemic, but because she was a single mother who had been laid off from her sommelier job, and she was worried about food security.

Maher had always been passionate about local foods and realized that it was these producers that would be hardest hit by COVID-19. In creating Heartbeat Supply Co., a foodbox delivery company, she hoped to do two things: support local producers and provide quality goods for local consumers straight to their doors.

She’s also been working with a forager to create foodboxes, and hopes they help make people more aware of the edible goods that exist in their own neighbourhoods.

“Every week I would learn a new plant,” she said. “I would be walking down the street and would suddenly recognize something I could eat.”

More information can be found at heartbeatsupply.ca.

Brian Rockwell

Brian Rockwell was thrilled to get to spend more time with his son this year. (Courtesy of Brian Rockwell)

The only word that Brian Rockwell can think of to describe his life since the start of the pandemic is “amazing.” In the last 15 years of being an aircraft mechanic, Rockwell has almost never been home for more than half of it.

He said he always used to wonder what life would be like if he got to spend more time at home.

This year, with COVID-19 restricting his travel to one month, he received his answer.

“Getting to see life on the other side and getting to be home all the time has been amazing. I want this to be my life from now on.”

His constant travelling was one of the reasons his marriage ended, and it kept him from seeing his 10-year-old son as much as he’d like.

In February, Rockwell met his new partner and they moved in together last month. They’re expecting a baby in March.

“I have no complaints for 2020. It treated me pretty nicely.”

Elaine Smithers

Elaine Smithers says taking up cold water swimming has been a game changer for her concussion recovery and her mental health. (Courtesy of Elaine Smithers)

Slow down.

This is what the pandemic both forced and allowed Elaine Smithers to do.

Her four-year-old son has been on a wait list for 17 months to get assessed for autism, and at the start of 2020, Smithers said she was constantly stressing about how to support him. In February, she got a concussion, and suddenly she too was struggling with sensory overload.

Then the world was thrown into lockdown, and Smithers was offered a respite. With her seven-year-old home from school and activities cancelled, their family began develop their own routine – one characterized by slow mornings, outdoor adventures and walking the dog along the beach.

As the world quieted, Smithers’ four-year-old began to thrive and so did she.

Hearing that cold water swimming was good for concussion recovery, Smithers started walking to the Gorge Waterway and dipping into the icy water. Initially, she said the cold would suck her breath away, and her fingers and toes would be freezing. But after less than two weeks, Smithers was craving the chilling plunge.

“I feel the best mentally this year that I’ve felt in my entire adult life.”

Sarah Shaw

In a whirlwind of a year, Sarah Shaw and her husband met, married, moved to Victoria and bought a sailboat that they plan to move onto in April. (Courtesy of Sarah Shaw)

One night, in April of this year, Sarah Shaw turned to her then-boyfriend of two months and asked him a wildly spontaneous question – would he be willing to move across the country with her.

Chris Shaw is someone who takes a little more time to think things through, so Sarah was shocked when “without a blink of an eye,” he said yes.

The two met on Plenty of Fish at the start of the pandemic, and Sarah said it was this that allowed them to get to know each other so well so fast.

“We spent more time doing quality things like going out on Chris’s boat, or going for walks, or making supper together.”

By June, they were engaged and moving from Ontario to Victoria. By October, they were married. And, come next April, they plan to be living on their newly purchased sailboat.

“COVID is really allowing us to go for our dreams and expand and grow as a couple together. It’s given us the ability to really appreciate and value time with those who mean the most to us.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

artistCoronavirusFamiliesGreater VictoriaMusicSmall BusinessVictoriawomen entrepreneurs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

The inside of the Campbell River Community Centre gymnasium has been marked off in order to facilitate the public flowing through the clinic as they receive their COVID-19 vaccination. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell river Mirror
Leftover vaccines go into arms, not down the drain: Island Health

No unused COVID-19 vaccines are going to waste at the end of… Continue reading

Where urban and natural landscapes meet can be a very interesting place. The Museum at Campbell River and Greenways Land Trust are hosting a talk on Earth Day on that topic. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Where urban and natural meet

Earth Day talk looks at urban biodiversity

Ryan Rasmussen goes on a training run on Quadra Island. Photo supplied.
Quadra Island man to run 160 km to raise funds for alternative cancer care

‘I feel like I need to be in pain to raise the money… I can’t do something that’s easy’ — Ryan Rasmussen

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Most Read