Spring is upon us. After nearly two months at home and as we progress deeper into this uncharted territory, it can sometimes feel like there are new predictions, symptoms, and updates every day, and still no end in sight. I don’t know if it’s just the nice weather, but, through all this fear and confusion, I feel, now more than ever, that things will get better. As the global medical community works to gain a (metaphorical) hold on this virus, all that we can really do is find ways to keep our spirits up, support each other in any we know how, and remember to stay safe, whether outside or inside.
I consider myself lucky because whenever I begin to feel down, or doubtful, I always find myself inspired to stay positive by the community of young people and youth organizations I have the privilege to work with every single day. By the countless young people across the globe who are working to help their communities through these trying times.
Using their tech savvy, creativity, knowledge, and compassion to sensitize, support, cheer up and connect with their peers, so many selfless young people have demonstrated the beauty of humanity, and I am honored to be able to highlight their work.
In times like these, I’m sure that we could all use some good news. I hope that reading about the next 10 young people who are supporting their communities through this pandemic will warm your heart as much as it did mine.
- Mohammad Zaher (Jordan) Overcoming Limitations of refugee youth
Many vulnerable young people, such as young migrants, young refugees, those in detention, and young people living in crowded areas such as townships or slums, live in conditions that put them at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. The Zaatari Camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan is currently closed in accordance with the state-mandated lockdown, and with lack of acess to internet, the youth in the camp have difficulty finding the information that they need to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19. To support them, 50 youth volunteers at the UNFPA/Questscope Youth Center are spreading awareness through WhatsApp groups, sending messages to family, neighbors and other social groups. Mohammad Zaher, the 30-year-old manager of the center, was encouraged by the young people around him. “Youth are very enthusiastic to conduct initiatives in the street” he explains, “but the main message is “Stay at Home” to protect yourself, your family and your community”, so they took to WhatsApp to spread accurate information.
- Aditi Sivakumar (Canada) Developing an app to help survivors of domestic violence
Unfortunately, for some, staying home is not the safest option. While families and couples have been lockdown worldwide, many countries have seen a drastic uptick in domestic violence that has even prompted UN Secretary-General António Guterres to appeal for “peace in homes around the world”. Aditi Sivakmar, an activist and SheDecides 25×25 Young Leader, has been using her experience in standing up for the rights of women and girls to address this issue in Canada. Through her advocacy work with survivors of gender-based violence, she had learnt that many were not aware of the different resources that existed to support them. To address this gap, she is currently working with several youth-led organizations in Canada and around the world to develop the “My Empowerment (ME) Platform”, a web application for women and girls experiencing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. This web application will provide information regarding gender-based violence, community resources available to women and girls facing violence, information on how to safely exit an abusive relationship, sexual and reproductive health resources, and resources to engage youth to take action towards reaching gender equality. With this web application, Aditi hopes to provide support to thousands of women and girls facing violence in her community and the world!
- Arjun Sheth (India) Fundraising to support disadvantaged families
Despite their positive contribution to “flattening the curve”, the many state-imposed lockdowns have had a few negative side effects. In India, for example, the lockdown has disproportionately hurt marginalized communities, the lower middle class, and the daily wage earners due to loss of livelihoods and lack of access to food and other basic needs. Arjun Sheth, a 20-year-old Engineering student from Ahmedabad, India has newly-launched crowd fundraiser and set a target of providing food to 1000 of the poorest families in the city of Ahmedabad during this challenging lockdown period. So far, it has been a huge success; on the first day, over 50% of the desired funds were met, and it is set to pass $5,000 soon. Arjun and his team were also able to visit a small village called Mahij on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, one of the poorest villages in the state of Gujarat. The team distributed 150 ‘care packages’ comprised of essential food items to the residents of the village and distributed an additional 50 kits to nurses in hospitals who have not been paid salaries and are on the front line for the country right now. Arjun and his team are currently planning a trip to deliver another 400 kits.
- IFRC (Red Cross Italy) Delivering Tulips along with Groceries and Medicine
As the weather outside gets nicer, it gets harder and harder to remain in quarantine. In many countries, springtime represents blooming flowers and parks drowned in vibrant colors and smells, perfect for strolls, peaceful moments and photo opportunities. Since the initiation of the lockdown, Red Cross volunteers in the city of Scandicci, Tuscany, Italy have been delivering groceries, medicine and other essentials to households. Now that spring is upon them, they face a new challenge: combatting FOMO! (the fear of missing out). To help the residents of Scandicci deal with limited access to the city’s natural beauty, the Red Cross volunteers have been picking freshly blooming tulips from Castelllo dell’Acciaiolo Park and delivering them to people’s homes as part of regular grocery and supply deliveries. On top of all the work that they have been doing, these Red Cross volunteers wanted to add a touch of extra kindness to keep people positive and in good spirits!
- Noorena Shams (Pakistan) Raising funds to support daily wage workers
During this pandemic, I have been pleased to see people from all walks of life coming together to support one another. Noorena Shams, is a 22-year old professional athlete and activist from Northwest Pakistan. Throughout her young career, she has been a vocal advocate for various causes such as women’s empowerment in the economy and in sports, refusing to let injustices pass her by. Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, many daily wage workers must still put themselves at risk every day in order to earn the money to fulfil their basic needs. Seeing this, Noorena and some of her friends decided to organize a fundraiser to provide those workers with food and other supplies in order to keep them inside and safe. Advertising heavily on her social media platforms, she raised as much as she could, then turned to her career connections to help amplify her message. This movement sparked action in her community, encouraging not only influential people to help, but also several government officials. To date, they have provided food to over 1000 families and have begun supplying medical supplies as well. Despite the good work that they have done so far, Noorena is hoping to gain more support and continue her mission to support her people.
- Regional Youth Council of the Center-West (Burkina Faso) Engaging in sensitization campaigns & distributing PPE
Seeing the outbreak of the Coronavirus across the globe, many young people in Burkina Faso were determined to help their country deal with its spread. When Burkina Faso found its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 9th 2020, the country’s health officials immediately put together an interdisciplinary response team that would supplement and advise the government and its actions. Many of the country’s young people, came together to add to this strong response.
On March 11th, the Regional Youth Council of the Center-West, an umbrella organization that unites the youth groups of the country’s center-west region, launched a sensitization campaign titled “Operation Stop Coronavirus” . With the support of medical consultants, they designed and installed over 50 signs and 200 posters sensitizing people on preventive measures (hand-washing, social distancing, symptoms to be aware of, etc.) in 4 of the region’s major cities. While sensitizing people on the streets, they have also distributed over 500 masks and hand sanitizers to equip them with the tools to match the information. At the same time, members of the regional council have been promoting this campaign online, sharing the same information to a wider audience through WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Their online campaign has reached over 70,000 people, and has a following of 1,250 on Facebook and 30,000 on WhatsApp. These young people are working hard to make sure people are protected from the virus, and the disinformation that sometimes accompany it.
- Wuhan Youth Volunteer Association (China) Supporting supermarkets with volunteer staff
When the virus hit in Wuhan, China, the city and its surrounding region were locked down as government and medical professionals sought to find ways to address the issue. In the meantime, some business closed and some scale back, bringing the economy to a halt. Despite their essential status, supermarkets in Wuhan struggled to operate on several levels, notably with regards to staffing. Due to the fear of the virus and its rapid spread, supermarkets in the city were understaffed, resulting in the remaining workers being overworked and facing increased risks with regards to the virus. To help keep supermarkets operating at the required level for this time of crisis, the Wuhan Youth Volunteer Association recruited more than 3000 volunteers, most of whom were born in the 1990s and later, to serve the supermarkets in the city by helping to pack, sort and contribute however was needed.
- Shreya Ramachandran (USA) Raising awareness on water conservation
Even though it sometimes feels like the world has slowed to a halt as we wait and watch the evolution of this pandemic, we must not lose sight of other important things. Shreya Ramachandran, the founder of The Grey Water Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on water conservation, climate change and sustainability, has decided to focus on her environmental work and engage and encourage members of her community and beyond to remember to care for our planet. Shreya, an 11th grader, has been organizing various events and contests for her fellow school children; on Earth Day this year, for example, she issued a challenge encouraging children of all ages to conduct research on how they could fight climate change, and present their findings through art, literature, music, dance or a research poster. She has also made her “Grey Water Lesson Plan” available for free, so that teachers and parents can use it with their children.
- Khalid Kani (Nigeria) Running awareness and sensitization campaigns
Many countries around the world have seen their health systems overwhelmed by the spread of virus. In order to support Nigeria’s struggling doctors and medical professionals, Khalid Kani, an aspiring doctor, and his classmates came up with a campaign to help raise awareness on the coronavirus and sensitize people to preventive measures in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The group, named Nigerians against Coronavirus (Covid-19), features potential clinical medical doctors, health personnel and young advocates for community development. They hope to reach people who are unable to access correct information and show them how to stay safe in order to curb the virus’ spread. “If we subscribe to the idea of wait and watch approach”, explains Khalid, “definitely COVID-19 might be the end of the people living in Nigeria and Africa at large with its contracting nature like a wildfire”. He and his friends are motivated in any way that they can, as they are inspired by one particular quote: “if we want to make a difference in this world, we don’t have to be brilliant, beautiful, rich or poor, we just have to care.”
- YWCA (Ethiopia) Conducting outreach and educational activities
The lack of information and spread of misinformation is one of the biggest fears surrounding this virus. Without proper knowledge, the virus may continue to spread, infect people, and continue to overstretch medical systems. Youth volunteers from YWCA Ethiopia have been raising awareness through various multimedia visual campaigns in their communities. On social media, they have been designing and sharing educational posters advocating for awareness and prevention of COVID-19, written in both English and Amharic (Ethiopia’s national language). They also designed a booklet containing information on COVID-19, but also on how to deal with abuse, violence, and stress, all of which have risen since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition to this sensitization campaign, YWCA Ethiopia has adapted their Safe and Inclusive Cities Project (operated in collaboration with Plan International) to address current health issues by organizing activities such as creating educational bumper stickers for public transportation vehicles, drawing queue lines to encourage social distancing while people are waiting to board buses, and donating hygiene kits to various communities.
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)