An interview with director Eva-Lena Hellmark
Threads of Hope director Eva-Lena Hellmark answers some of our questions. Currently, Eva-Lena is the only member of the Threads of Hope family with COVID-19.
Firstly, how are you?
Eva-Lena: I’m much better now, but it has been four weeks now since I developed the first symptoms of COVID-19.
Where are you?
Eva-Lena: I am actually in Sweden. I went here on a short trip at the beginning of March and after a couple of days, I became ill. After another few days, Greece closed its borders and I don’t know now when I will be able to go back.
When did you first think you have COVID-19 and what were the first symptoms?
Eva-Lena: Well, at first I thought it was just a regular fever. I had been spending a couple of days with my grandson and he had a bad cold, so I thought I had picked that up from him. But a few days later I developed a bad cough, respiratory infection, heavy breathing and felt so exhausted. I then understood it was not just a regular cold.
What did you do during your time in isolation?
Eva-Lena: Normally if I am sick I feel very restless and frustrated not being able to do much. Not so this time! The first week I didn’t do much at all. Once I started to feel a bit better I went out for short walks around our garden (So glad there is a garden to be in at this time!) I have been reading, completing a jigsaw puzzle, watching films, etc. And then, of course, I have almost daily been in touch with Threads of Hope, the staff, the women, the board, etc. Amazing how much you can actually do over the internet!
Who has been looking after you?
Eva-Lena: My husband is here with me and even though he also became ill, we have been able to help each other out. We also have a son close by who has been buying groceries for us.
Did anyone else who you had been in contact with developing symptoms?
Eva-Lena: Yes, both my husband and one of our daughters became ill.
How are you feeling now?
Eva-Lena: Much better! I still have a slight cough. It’s just the tiredness that seems to not go away.
What is Sweden doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Eva-Lena: Sweden has stuck out a bit compared to other countries and not introduced such strict guidelines. You are constantly reminded of social distancing and to wash your hands, of course, but apart from that only colleges and universities are closed. Regular schools are still open. You are not allowed to meet in groups of more than 50 people at the time, you cannot visit elderly homes and the authorities strongly advise against traveling. So far we haven’t seen very high numbers of deaths. I expect though that restriction will become tougher as "the curve” of infected people start increasing more.
When do you hope to be back in Greece?
Eva-Lena: As soon as we are without symptoms and as soon as the borders open and the most severe restrictions are lifted, we will be back on the first plane!
What’s happening at Threads of Hope?
Eva-Lena: Nothing is happening in the actual workshop. All our employees and trainees stay at home. But the staff are still working as much as possible. We take the opportunity to work on policies and procedures, develop newly written information material, and of course new products.
We keep some stock in Sweden, and sale is still going on there, which is great!
What are the biggest challenges facing Threads of Hope during this time?
Eva-Lena: To be able to continue to support our employees and trainees in every aspect, as they don’t have much of anything right now. They don’t only lack financial support but have very little of a social network and support as they all live far away from family and friends. We have to be that for them now. We also need ongoing support to be able to keep on paying monthly bills etc.
How are the employees and trainees?
Eva-Lena: All of them are still healthy and seem to be doing ok. They struggle to keep ends meet, and like everybody else, it is frustrating to be “locked-in”.
How are the volunteer staff?
Eva-Lena: Apart from a regular cold or so, they also are still healthy. Busy trying to keep up with any Threads of Hope work that can be done from home or over the Internet.
Do you have any idea when Threads will be open again?
Eva-Lena: New things are developing and changing every week. Many of our employees have small children and we are unsure if schools will be open again this year. The Greek population is in isolation until at least 27th April and then the government will make further announcements. Threads of Hope is not only a business but a family our ladies come to work for not only for employment but for the community of being together. Everyone is feeling the sting of not being together. As soon as it is possible to move around the city again we will do so.
How can we support Threads of Hope during this time?
Eva-Lena: The biggest support I think, is to help Threads of Hope support the women right now and then when we open again, to start buying from us again.