Another month down. As the temperature rises and we roll into summer, the world is facing a crossroads. While some are embracing the progressive reopening of businesses and public spaces, others remain cautious, unsure of how best to proceed. Doctors and scientists are racing to develop treatments and a vaccine while governments find ways to rebuild their economies while supporting their citizens.
Despite the uncertainty, I’m happy to see that there are still so many reasons to continue hoping for the best. People all around the globe have been finding ways to stay connected and optimistic: using social media to bring communities together around a litany of challenges that bring smiles to peoples faces, sketches and entertaining content; artists have found ways to entertain and engage their fans through virtual performances, shows and table reads; and the increase in free time has inspired many to take up new hobbies and activities to pass the time.
More than anything, however, I am touched by all of the acts of solidarity that I have been seeing. In addition to the displays of creativity, this pandemic has shown how caring and empathetic we can be, with many young people leading the charge through innovation.
Armed with a variety of skills and a genuine willingness to help others, young people have been a shining light during these dark times. This is why I am honored to share the stories of 10 more young people who are working to support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we enter a new month, it can be difficult to maintain hope and a positive outlook. I hope that reading about these inspirational young people will help you remember that, as long as we stick together, things will be alright.
1) Obaida Abu Hussain (Occupied Palestinian Territories) – Animating COVID-19 messages for children
In recent years, animation and graphic video have been emerging as useful tools in educating children. In light of the current pandemic, they have been shown to be even more crucial. That is why Obaida Abu Hussein, a 28-year-old from Hebron, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories decided to use this tool as an opportunity to be a part of the COVID-19 response. Obaida works in the media unit at Hebron municipality community center and is also engaged in various activities to support children set up in the city by War Child Holland. Using the media unit’s facilities, Obaidah has been creating a number of animations and posting them on social media sites targeting children, aiming to explain COVID-19 and prevention strategies in a creative way. His videos have received universal praise, with children captivated by the animations, and parents impressed by the knowledge conveyed. Obaidah also encourages youth to stay positive. In one of his social media posts, he states:
“The quarantine is not a prison, and do not let your free time frustrate you. Read, write, draw, or review your lessons.”
2) YMCA (Greater Long Beach, California) – Raising money and delivering goods for underprivileged communities
While quarantine and lock-down measures have been difficult, many of us are privileged enough to be able to sustain ourselves during this uncertainty. For many people in disadvantaged communities, however, essential supplies are not a given. To support these communities through the pandemic, The Community Development YMCA of Greater Long Beach in California has been offering offering a variety of services. For example, they hosted a Drive Through Easter Basket distributions, giving hygiene supplies, $50 gift cards to buy food and other useful items for newborns, elderly people, the homeless and families in any kind of crisis. They have also been collecting donations and contributions to fund these projects, encouraging people to support their community.
3) Abbas Suleiman (Nigeria) – Bridging the education gap during the pandemic
Due to the lock-down measures that have been put in place to protect people from this pandemic, schools have been shut, interrupting the education of many children. To make sure that children could continue learning in Nigeria, Abbas Suleiman decided to create a door to door delivery service, sharing education materials. In collaboration with his team, which consists of his friends from university, Abbas has been delivering textbooks, writing materials and notebooks, especially to children living in vulnerable and disadvantaged circumstances. In addition to this, he has been offering online tutoring sessions, covering Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, English, Health, and Human / Civic Rights, to children of all ages.
“In my community, staying indoors at this critical moment of this pandemic really can cause and create a gap in education and learning impact”, explains Abbas, “In this regard, I decided to make a move by breaching that gap”.
4) YMCA (Senegal) – Keeping public places clean and raising awareness
YMCA chapters around the world have been stepping up to take care of the people in their communities. In Senegal, YMCA volunteers have been working with authorities to distribute protective equipment to citizens. Equipped with hydro-alcoholic gel, soap and bleach bottles, volunteers are stationed at bus stations and entrances of some cities to take the temperatures of passengers and make them wash their hands. Flyers are also distributed to the population to raise awareness of COVID-19 and preventive measures. The YMCA also provided the authorities with vehicles and sound equipment for them to tour neighborhoods in the regions of Sédhiou, Ziguinchor, and Kolda to further raise awareness. In addition to all of these endeavors, an active social media presence is maintained to reach as many people as possible.
5) Katelyn Wang (Canada) – Offering tutoring services for out of school children
During the pandemic, school closures have affected many young peoples regular access to education, hindering their learning opportunities. Katelyn Wang, a university student from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, sought to support her fellow students. She is a part of L.I.G.H.T. (Lead, Inspire, Grow, Hope, Transform), an organization that provides tutoring services. Currently, she offers a free online tutoring program, providing students in grades 4–12 with virtual learning opportunities. To date, she has had roughly 80 volunteer tutors sign up from all across Canada, and a total of 70+ one hour sessions every week, serving 33 students.
6) Dr. Sathyani Wevita (Sri Lanka) – Conducting research and searching for solutions
Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Dr. Sathyani Wevita worked in a hospital, conducting research on Dengue & TB. When Sri Lanka identified its first COVID-19 case in a Chinese National, she used her knowledge of the Chinese language to help the hospital’s medical staff communicate with them. As the disease began to affect more patients, she decided to shift her research focus to understanding COVID-19 better. These days, Dr. Wevita works as a Medical Researcher with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Colombo. This institute conducts research alongside the treatment of patients in the hospital: Sample collection is done through Nasopharyngeal swabs, sputum & blood, which is then used to run polymerise chain reaction (PCR) tests in order to Identify clusters & their symptoms and study the antibody development of Covid-19 patients. They also test the accuracy of Antibody Detection Kits. This Virus is new. We have no prior experience of something similar. Dr. Wevita stresses the need for this kind of collaborative work and investment in our health care systems:
“This Virus knows no religion race or caste.” She says. “This Pandemic has showed us that a stronger and a better Healthcare system is where we want to put our money on (…) We’re all in this together. Therefore, to defeat this, we all need each other.”
7) Nhial Deng (Kenya) – Tackling misinformation in refugee camps
The COVID-19 pandemic has put many vulnerable communities in precarious situations. Nhial Deng, a young South Sudanese/Ethiopian young refugee, has sought to address this issue. Inspired by his experience as a refugee in Kenya, he has dedicated his life to bringing light and support to people in need, participating in World Vision Kenya’s ‘Empowering Children as Peace builders Project’, and founding the Refugee Youth Peace Ambassadors in the Kakuma Refugee Camp.
Nhial observed that today, there is a high spread of rumors and misinformation about COVID-19 causing panic and tension in many refugee communities. This motivated Nhial and his team to start running awareness campaigns through posters and digital education to make sure that residents of the camp have accurate information about the crisis, working closely with young people, refugee businesses, and community leaders. To date, 500 refugee businesses have allowed them to share their messages in their shops, which receive 10–50 people a day. Around 30% of posters have been shared with community leaders for them to share with the elderly in their communities who might not be able to regularly visit public areas. They are currently recruiting beneficiaries for an SMS system that will entail the sending of free SMS messages to refugees and host community members, and monitor misinformation via wikirumors.
8) Xiya Xu (China / France) – Inspiring solidarity through song
Although the closing of borders and social isolation have had people feeling distant, this pandemic has also inspired creativity, collaboration and solidarity. Xiya Xu, is a Chinese student majoring in French in the college of foreign languages and cultures at Xiamen University. She is currently living in France as an exchange student of Universite Du Havre.
Xiya Xu collaborated with Lina Doran, a French Algerian singer, and Tristan Guérin, a music producer in Caen, France, to write and perform Délivré, a song about fighting the pandemic. The song calls for French people to stand firm and have the confidence to overcome the difficulties. The song also aims to represent the determination and hope of the international community and encourage everyone to combat COVID-19 together.
9) Asif Ayoob / India – Supporting those in need
COVID-19 took the world by storm. In many countries, people and governments reacted quickly, and began developing plans to react. In order to support the government initiatives aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19, Asif Ayoob and the Smiles4millions Organization have initiated the B+VE (Be Positive) India Campaign. The campaign has multiple facets: through social media, they aim to eradicate the spread of fake news, while also raising awareness and sharing important information. The campaign also connects immigrant daily workers with connections to shelter, food and supplies, helping them to stay safe and minimize exposure. Most importantly, the B+VE India Campaign seeks to foster collaboration and unity among Indians, encouraging them to work together to stay safe and deal with the virus.
10) Amelie Jezabel Mariage (Spain) – Maintaining affordable education
Despite their busy schedules, many of our Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals have been using their platforms to support communities during the pandemic. Amélie Jezabel Mariage, for example, has been helping to run several educational initiatives through her non-profit, Aprendices Visuales. They have launched a hand washing campaign aimed at raising awareness and helping children learn to wash their hands properly to make sure that they stay protected from the virus. They also have shared this information in 20 free ebooks featuring pictograms, targeted towards families and their children. In addition to these campaigns, they are developing online courses for families and teachers, offering a 50% discount to make sure they are accessible to all. For those who do not have ipads or personal computers, Aprendices Visuales has also launched a television channel, operated in collaboration with the government and a Spanish TV channel.
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)