WINDSOR, ONT. -- The South Asian Centre of Windsor is hoping to brighten spirits of many newcomers experiencing isolation from COVID-19 during the Indian celebration of lights.

The Centre’s Project Director says a phone line has been set up to help connect to some of the 13,000 people of South Asian origin who live in the Windsor-Essex region.

“This friendly call service is a Diwali gift to our community. It will help us connect, open a conversation and brighten their day”, says Nandini Tirumala.

Tirumala worries there are many newcomer families, international students, seniors, caregivers and those with chronic illnesses who have been experiencing social isolation due to COVID-19.

Language and cultural barriers are making it difficult for them to get help for their needs affecting their mental health and wellness.

Trained volunteers will answer the phone lines in Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Nepalese, Bengali and Punjabi languages.

Anyone in Windsor over 18 years old can call number at (226) 280 8165.

The phone lines will open on Monday, November 16th, and will operate from 1 pm to 5 pm from Monday to Friday for the next four to five months.

“We hope to connect with people over the winter and it could be extended based on the needs and demand for the service,” added Tirumala.

Diwali is the Indian festival of lights and usually lasts for five days and symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, or good over evil.

“However, it’s also a period of connections to the greater community. What better time to launch a program meant to connect to those individuals who might need to hear from a friendly voice in a language they understand,” said Tirumala.