VIU Alumni Adapt to New Realities of COVID-19 Pandemic

VIU alum Slava Govorov is thankful to be giving back during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 1, 2020 - 2:30pm

During #GivingTuesdayNow on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, VIU is highlighting stories of alumni who are making a difference and supporting communities in a time of crisis.

March 2020 will go down in history as the month many of us had our lives drastically altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from the swift shuttering of many businesses, to a mass transition to working and learning from home, to precarious or suddenly non-existent employment opportunities for the most vulnerable.

Many Vancouver Island University (VIU) alumni are on the front lines of the crisis, helping others respond to the changing world around them and adapting their business models to keep the local economy moving.

Slava Govorov, owner of the South Nanaimo and Ladysmith Panago locations, brought together all the mid-Island locations to offer first responders free small pizzas for the month of April.

“We gave away thousands of small pizzas to feed local health care workers,” explains the Business Administration alum. “It’s important to us to help in the fight against COVID-19, and as everyone loves pizza, it hasn’t been a hard task to achieve!”

Govorov has a long history of giving back to the community, supporting everything from minor sports leagues to local summer festivals to the VIU Mariners and student awards. He says his greatest wish is that all his employees and customers are staying safe at this time and hopes his business can continue to be a part of helping the mid-Island community recover.

When the Ministry of Education moved public education online in all public schools across BC, Laura Tait, Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Programs with School District 68 (Nanaimo-Ladysmith), had a large task on her hands – helping to operationalize a plan for the district’s 15,000 students to continue learning from home.

“Everything has been fairly seamless in terms of video conferencing so far – there hasn’t been any major glitches,” she says. “I don’t take this lightly, even for a second. I think the only way we are going to get through this is to follow the rules. We all need to help each other get through this.”

Terence Fitzgerald and his team at Sheringham Distillery in Sooke shifted their business model to include production of hand sanitizer for people and businesses in the community. A portion of the proceeds for each bottle of “Sanette” goes toward those who are out of work due to COVID-19.

“We are grateful that we could do something to give back during this difficult time,” says Fitzgerald, a Bachelor of Arts alum. “At times like this, it’s important we stick together and do what we can to help those around us.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2020, has been designated #GivingTuesdayNow – a global day of giving and unity as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. The VIU Foundation is using this day to highlight alumni, such as those featured above, who are making a difference in their communities, as well as celebrating the leadership of the VIU Students’ Union and VIU in providing emergency funds to students in need and launching a new tool to support families registering with the Canada Learning Bond.

“While many of us may feel uncertainty at this time, we are finding comfort in one unaltered truth: our VIU community is strong,” adds William Litchfield, Executive Director of the VIU Foundation. “Throughout the day, we will be sharing stories on social media and celebrating our community’s contributions. We are asking others to join us in recognizing the amazing work being done by our alumni, students and donors. If you are sharing a story, don’t forget to use the hashtags #TogetherVIU and #GivingTuesdayNow.”

One of the highlights to be shared on May 5 includes the VIU Students’ Union’s leadership gift of $75,000, which was matched by the Foundation, to the University’s emergency bursary fund to support students affected by COVID-19 crisis. Since then, VIU alum Jennifer Richards, Manager of Financial Aid and Resources, and her team have been working hard to get emergency bursaries into the hands of vulnerable students. In less than a month, the institution has distributed $437,500 directly to students and the Foundation is still raising money so more students can be helped.

“It is times like this that define who we are and solidify why it is so important we pull together to support our students,” says Richards. “Our Financial Team is a passionate group working behind the scenes to support students. I feel blessed to work with such a dedicated, efficient, hard-working group.”

VIU will also be launching a platform to offer virtual live guidance and video chat walkthroughs for families who want to set up a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP). Starting on May 5, families can complete registration and have their questions answered about the Canada Learning Bond and other available education savings grants ‒ all from the comfort of their homes. With up to $3,200 of free, no-strings-attached post-secondary education savings money available, a 30-minute conversation can start the process and open the doors to higher education. For more information, families can head to




Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: VIU Foundation | Our Alumni