By now, we have all watched with worry as the coronavirus wave spread to nearly every country on the map. For so many people, ordinary life has come to a screeching halt – and far too many have suffered unimaginable tragedies.
There are some glimmers of hope as the number of deaths and infections in Europe and Eastern Asia begins to decline. More and more nations have rolled out legislation and recommendations calling for self-isolation and quarantine to flatten the curve and prevent the collapse of public health systems.
With hope and humor, people are trying to cope in the confinement of their homes, but many are struggling to make ends meet and stay strong.
The struggle affects virtually all of us, and in this difficult time, I want to share my own source of inspiration: young people across the globe who have been working selflessly to help their communities through these trying times.
With resilience and resourcefulness, young people are harnessing the power of technology to find new ways to reach those in need. Even those who have little to spare are reaching into their own pockets to help others. And they are showing that the worst health crisis in memory is no match for this proud and active generation of youth.
We will get through this crisis. And when we do, I am sure that history will show the world’s young people helped to build a bridge from fear to hope and from confusion to understanding.
As family members worry about each other and navigate an unfamiliar and frightening new landscape, it helps to see how youth are taking action. That is why I’d like to introduce 10 young people reminding their communities how to stick together even when we’re all staying apart. Their courage gives me confidence that young people can manifest the best in humanity — and that is a light that will shine for generations to come.
1) Madison Taylor – Western Europe and Others (USA) – Female.
Providing tutoring and childcare services to overworked parents
Alongside the health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are struggling to balance their work responsibilities with childcare and homeschooling. In an effort to support the families in her Colorado town, high school student Madison “Maddie” Taylor created a website to help families find volunteer babysitters and tutors for their children. Through COVID-19 Colorado Childcare, families can get in contact with a network of 20-25 babysitters and 10 tutors, all of whom are healthy and symptom-less, to ensure the safety of the families. To protect the tutors and babysitters, families that show signs of sickness are encouraged to not use the service.
2) Caillum Hedderman – Western Europe & Others (Ireland) – Male.
Delivering groceries to elderly and isolated people
The elderly are among those most at risk from COVID-19 – and many older persons are being told to stay home to avoid being exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, this has left many older people in isolation, struggling to meet even their basic needs. Caillum Hedderman, a 17-year old student and boy scout living in Limerick, Ireland, jumped on his bike to help pick up and deliver their groceries. After contacting a local county councillor to get a list of older and isolated people in his area, Caillum offered his services, advertising online and on posters at his local church and community hall. He has been delivering groceries, even stopping to have a conversation (through the window, to respect social distancing rules) with people living alone. He has even offered to go on bike rides with younger children, in case their parents need a break from childcare. “We as young people rely on the adults in our community to help us for the majority of our lives”, he explained to The Independent, calling for intensified assistance to those who need help during this time.
3) Donald Mudzengerere – Africa (Zimbabwe) – male.
Helping youth participate in society through discussions with government
If the virus is a fire, misinformation is the fuel that helps it spread. That is why young people’s demands for truth is so important. Donald Mudzengerere decided to make sure his and other youth voices were being heard by government officials. He organized a meeting between local young people and government representatives from the Ministry of Health and Child Care to discuss the spread of the pandemic. Through these discussions, both youth and elderly participants were educated on how to stay safe from contracting the COVID19.
4) Scout Association of Hong Kong – Asia Pacific (Hong Kong) – Male & Female.
Helping international travelers set up their quarantine tracking bracelets to control the spread
In a pandemic, a virus knows no borders – but some young people are showing how human solidarity also doesn’t need a passport to travel. In Hong Kong, to manage the spread of COVID-19, incoming international travellers must self-quarantine for 14 days and wear a quarantine tracking bracelet. The bracelet is then connected to an app that tracks the travellers’ location, making sure that they remain inside their homes for the duration of the quarantine time. In order to expedite and facilitate this process, 22 local Scout leaders have been helping the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer (OGCIO) to pair quarantine bracelets and mobile phones in the Centre of Health Protection (CHP). This helps travellers and residents to stay safe.
5) Adefare Tomisin – Africa (Nigeria) – Female.
In the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, young people are inoculating their communities with knowledge on how to avoid getting sick. One Nigerian woman named Adefare Tomisin mobilized a few friends and set out to raise awareness among sellers and buyers in the Bodija and Sango markets in the city of Ibadan. Due to the high traffic and social interactions in markets, they represent a potential breeding ground for sickness. Additionally, as she explains, Adefare wanted to ensure that at-risk people, such as the illiterate and those without access to the Internet, are properly informed and equipped. Adefare joined up with some of her friends to demonstratd proper handwashing techniques and distribute gloves and face masks. They also educated people on precautionary measures for avoiding COVID-19 through signs written in English and local languages, and donated tap buckets and sanitizer to the markets. They also provided numbers for hotlines to call in case of emergency. Their combined efforts made an immeasurable impact on hundreds of individuals.
6) Aditya Mukarji – Asia-Pacific (India) – Male.
Fundraising and crowdsourcing rations for the disadvantaged
Some of the worst hit by the global lockdowns and quarantines are the poor and daily wage workers. During the lockdown in India, Aditya Mukarji, a 16-year old climate activist, sought to support these vulnerable groups. He mobilized the other residents living in his apartment complex and a few others, encouraging them to donate dry rations or money to provide support to local wage workers and people living in poverty during the quarantine. With the funds that he collected, Aditya ordered and distributed one month’s worth of dry rations to 72 families in the neighboring clusters and to two shelters housing orphans and street children. He also encouraged his neighbors and contacts to contribute to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to support disadvantaged and vulnerable people on a larger scale.
7) Baraah Bataineh – Asia Pacific (Jordan).
Maintaining youth space activities online
Youth spaces bring together and engage youth to better serve each other and their communities. Creative young people are showing how this dynamic can be maintained even through the current crisis. Baraah Bataineh is one of the co-founders of Liwan Youth Space, an active space for youth living in Jordan. Baraah and other staff and volunteers at Liwan have been hosting their usual services online, along with an online public session 3 times a week. In addition, they are working with specialized counselors to offer virtual mental health sessions. Baraah explains that the outbreak of COVID-19 provided her with “the opportunity to self-education”. After taking two World Health Organization (WHO) open online courses on COVID-19 preparedness and prevention, she transferred Liwan’s services online, helping to share correct and up-to-date information on how young people can combat the virus. To further this goal, Liwan is also leading a group of volunteers to fight fake news online using key hashtags.
8) Anton Karlsson – Western Europe and Others (Sweden).
Coronahjälpen – supporting those who are indirectly affected by COVID-19
In addition to the people who have been directly affected by the virus, many people have been indirectly affected through lockdowns. Anton Karlsson, a young man from Sweden, sought to assist people deal with this new status quo by helping to start Coronahjälpen, which means corona help in Swedish. Their initial mandate was to help people accomplish everyday tasks like getting groceries or walking the dog without putting themselves at risk. When he thought about the many people in self-isolation with a variety of other needs, such as students who are now forced to attend classes online or people who do not have the support of family or friends, Anton created a Facebook group to mobilize action. Today, Coronahjälpen is a national web-based platform that allows people to request and provide a whole range of services, including online homework assistance and group study lessons.
9) Delali Egyima – Western Europe and Others (Canada) – Female.
Fundraising to help people pay their rent
In situations of crisis, people working in less stable employment categories and minority groups are often disproportionately affected because they lack equal access to social safety nets. In Montreal, for example, many sex workers, service industry workers and freelancers are or will soon be unable to pay their rent, utilities, groceries and more. MTL Rapid Response, the Montreal chapter of the international NGO, has set up a fund to help support any people who have been financially destabilized by the pandemic, prioritizing people who are sick, disabled or who belong to racial or sexual minority groups. Delali Egyima, a student and activist living in Montreal, has been spending much of her newfound free time amplifying this initiative. In addition to her sharing it widely and extensively across her social networks, Delali has been personally collecting and redistributing donations through her PayPal account in order to bypass MTL Rapid Response’s monthly bank limit and ensure that those in need do not have to wait to receive funds. She also regularly supports and shares various other initiatives providing funds and supplies to groups around the city.
10) Ilana Milkes – Latin America and the Caribbean (Colombia) – Female.
Distributing educational kits to children who lack access to educational technology
Since its designation as a pandemic, COVID-19 has had wide-ranging effects on our societies, exposing our limitations and putting vulnerable communities at a greater disadvantage. This dynamic has been very present in the case of education. While many schools have undertaken the process of shifting their lessons and work online, this system does little to account for children who do not have easy access to technologies such as the internet. To help these children maintain and expand their education, World Tech, a technology education startup based in Colombia, have stepped up to the plate. The company, co-founded and run by Ilana Milkes has been purchasing and distributing educational kits to students, teaching them skills such as computational thinking, biotechnology and robotics in order to help them stay up to date with current technological advancements. With each kit, a child is equipped to receive educational technology for the rest of the year.
I hope that these stories will inspire you to see young people as responsible, resilient and resourceful in times of crisis as they truly are.
If you know other young people who are showing exceptional leadership in time of this pandemic please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org we would love to share their stories.
Read my other Blogs:
Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world (1st Edition)