“We need solidarity and coordination amongst civil society organisations”

Baiba Suggested emergency measures to the Latvian government to help cover basic expenses for those in need Latvia, Riga

How do you get on with life after COVID-19 if you lost your job or saw your wages drastically cut? To help citizens deal with such situations, the Latvian National Association for Consumer Protection has been suggesting emergency measures to the Latvian government. “We pushed for citizens who couldn’t provide for their basic needs to receive a crisis benefit. Half of their expenses will be reimbursed,” says Baiba. “We’ve also been involved in the decision to provide debt relief opportunities for consumers, as well as delay tax payments, and vulnerable consumers can now apply for a heating allowance.” Baiba is also a member of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC). She stresses that the post-COVID-19 period will call for a strong and stable EESC, with knowledgeable members fully committed to representing the interests of civil society organisations.

“We do our best to champion the rights and interests of people with disabilities”

Gunta Provides valuable information to people with disabilities in Latvia Latvia, Riga

Amongst those most vulnerable to the effects of the crisis are people with disabilities. Unfortunately, many have reported a feeling of being left behind and of having very limited access to relevant information. This is where SUSTENTO – the Latvian umbrella organisation for disability groups – comes in. “We do our best to champion the rights and interests of people with disabilities. Many government decisions were hastily made and did not take their needs into consideration. Our first task is to get their interests on the political agenda,” Gunta explains. With 25 % of the population also having difficulties reading, SUSTENTO also decided to focus on translating the daily news into plain Latvian, making it widely available. “We also set up a phone line for people who do not have access to the Internet or other sources of information. Guidance is provided in Latvian, Russian and English.”

“Being able to host drive-in concerts was one of the best experiences in my career”

Mārcis Organised the first drive-in concert in Latvia Latvia, Ādaži

Sit comfortably in your car, put on some headphones, relax and let the music take you away. This is the experience Mārcis conceived from start to finish for Latvian music lovers. But instead of listening to a record or streaming music, he proposed actual live concerts inspired by drive-in movies in the US. “Seeing all my concerts cancelled was heartbreaking. The connection with listeners was gone. Even though I could still give private guitar lessons to people across Europe and prepare my recordings, these were really though times,” Mārcis recalls. “But then I saw this reportage showing a drive-in cinema in Germany. It immediately struck me: Why not try performing at a drive-in concert?” Despite technical issues and hesitance from Latvian authorities, Mārcis refused to give up. He ended up getting the required authorisation and performed at what he now calls the best concerts of his life. “Both concerts were sold out in 10 minutes, and the feedback was great. This whole experience made me realise how blessed I am to be able to do what I love,” Mārcis concludes.

“We want our videos to enable creative co-participation”

Theatre troupe KVADRIFRONS Published videos of reading tales from Giovanni Boccaccio's book "The Decameron" Latvia, Riga

It’s story time! Starting on 16 March, each day the theatre company KVADRIFRONS has been publishing a video in which various people read short stories out loud. The stories all come from Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” – a classic of Italian literature containing 100 tales told in the context of the Black Death plague. “We find these stories to be very relevant to the situation we are in today. Plus, this initiative creates a unifying feeling of participation and presence”, says a member of the theatre company. While the video sessions were completed in May, the readings are still available on the KVADRIFRONS Facebook, Youtube, and Spotify pages.

“A hot dish is our way to say thanks to those who are saving us”

Foundation “Hospiss LV” Provides free hot meals to doctors and medical staff Latvia, Riga

From restaurants, to businesses, to volunteers, many different people came together to deliver free hot meals to doctors and medical staff. The initiative came from the “Hospiss LV” foundation, who have helped to provide over 50 000 meals since the COVID-19 outbreak struck Latvia, with this number continuing to grow. “With this initiative, we support not only the medical staff who work tirelessly for all of us, but also catering companies. This crisis has brought unexpected challenges for them too,” says a representative of the foundation. Hospiss LV’s efforts echo similar initiatives across Europe. The European Parliament, for instance, has kept its Brussels kitchen opened to serve dishes to people who need it most.