These days, I find myself feeling more and more relived to see how in many places, COVID-19 infection and mortality rates are dropping. Many of us seem to be adjusting to this new normal and taking necessary precautions. Social gatherings are resuming slowly, and it feels like a cautious, but optimistic sigh of fresh air is washing over us. Being able to see loved ones in person after so long warms my heart and revitalizes me after a challenging few months
However, although the temptation to return to “normal” is there, we must remember to take things slowly. Medical professionals and selfless individuals are still working to keep us safe, and we cannot take that for granted. If not for all of their work, it is difficult to imagine the situation that we, as a global community, would find ourselves in right now. Whether directly through treatment and support or indirectly through inspiration, we have all been touched, and, as this blog nears its end, and societies adapt to the new realities, I hope that we keep this in mind and show our gratitude.
As I write about another 10 amazing young people working to support their communities, I find myself just as amazed as I was when this blog began. With selfless, innovative, intelligent and caring youth that have been present in this blog (and who extend far beyond!), I am excited to see what the future holds.
Once more, I am honored to introduce you to another 10 young people working to protect their communities from COVID-19. I hope that they continue to inspire and motivate you to continue our efforts to stay safe, positive, and united!
- Mohammed Daraghmeh (Occupied Palestinian Territories – Engaging Palestinian children through radio
When the coronavirus began to spread around the world, many citizens of the Occupied Palestinian Territories were economically, socially, and psychologically affected. In an effort to help these societies, Mohammed Daraghmeh, a 26-year-old psychologist and social worker from Tubas, wanted to find a way to help children in nearby communities to cope with the changes and far that had befallen them. This inspired him to found PROVA FM, an online radio station, in December 2019. Through this initiative, he has been able to support the children, both through online games and moral support and, thanks to the support of War Child Holland, through various educational gifts for use during the lockdown. Mohammed and his team are motivated by the prospect of bringing positivity and joy to the lives of children in their communities. “Children are the future of Palestine”, he explains, “so we need to save them”.
- David Salas (Colombia) – Providing groceries and conflict resolution to families in need
COVID-19 has been disproportionately affecting Colombia’s most vulnerable communities. Since the government decreed a mandatory lockdown in mid-April, many have been unable to generate income and provide their families with food. There has also been a sharp increase in the number of domestic violence in these communities, with the Colombian Women’s Observatory reporting that April 2020 saw 91% more calls reporting crimes against women than those received in the same period in 2019. Before the crisis, Somos CaPAZes, a youth organization led by David Salas, was working on several peace and education programs across the country in communities just like these and decided to adapt their work to address the new issues, taking the stay at home orders into consideration. The Somos CaPAZes team designed and implemented a survey / interview to assess the needs of these families. After interviewing 109 families, 95% of which were represented by women, it was found that an average of 4–6 children per family were skipping meals, many parents had lost their jobs or seen decreased income, and only 61% of respondents had access to internet. After With these results, the Somos CaPAZes’ team and the board concluded that the best way to adapt to the current situation and add value to our communities was through a fundraising campaign to provide these families with grocery packs to help them alleviate food scarcity and designing and making available a conflict resolution online course made for those families that had internet connection, plus providing internet connection to those who did not have access at home.
- Wu Zhengliang (China) – A hardworking volunteer giving all of his time
During the run of this pandemic, we have seen all sorts of heroics from people in all walks of life, from doctors to grocery shop workers and all the way to young volunteers. Wu Zhengliang is one such volunteer. From February 22nd until its closing on March 8th, Wu worked tirelessly at the Dunkou Temporary Treatment Centre, never missing a day and often working 12-hour shifts. Mainly tasked with the construction of CT scanning rooms. Once that was complete, he joined the medical treatment team, taking on the entry of basic information and ID verification for incoming patients. He was also charged with updating information and tracing discharged patients to help manage the virus’ spread.
- Kyeremeh Oppong Daniel (Ghana) – Making hand sanitizers and soaps for communities in need
Unfortunately, the drastic global increase in demand for hand sanitizers has inspired a drastic increase in prices, making essential materials inaccessible to many communities. Kyeremeh Oppong Daniel, also known as KOD, a third-year chemistry student at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology in Ghana, found this to be unjust and decided to use his selflessness and intelligence to help his community.“As an astute Ghanaian youth’, explains Kyeremeh,, “I was of the view that I can support the needy in these hard times, in my own way”. Through his KOD Foundation, Kyeremeh initiated the KOD Community Initiative to help support the less privileged members of society who had been struggling to obtain the necessary tools to protect themselves from the COVID-19 pandemic. Kyeremeh has been making and selling affordable hand sanitizers and liquid soaps, using the incoming revenue to support communities in need.
- Success Leela Sulonkolo (Liberia) – Making sure that the voices of women and girls are heard
As an incoming member of one of Plan International’s Liberian Girl-Led Digital Research teams, Success Leela Sulonkolo was excited to get to work. Following trainings and data collection, however, her and her team were forced to change their focus on March 16th, 2020, when Liberia’s first COVID-19 case was announced. In addition to halting Success’ research, the coronavirus has largely brought education for girls to a standstill as well. The Liberian Ministry of Education has been holding classes online and over the radio, but many girls either can’t afford the mobile data needed to attend classes or do not even have to smartphones. As many parents have seen a rupture of decrease in income during this pandemic, these situations have worsened. In addition, tradition in many Liberian households stipulates that men and boys have priority over the use of the radio, while women are expected to do household chores. Due to a lack and redistribution of finances, INGOs and NGOs are slowing down their interventions, which has reduced to capabilities of local organizations. Within the country, however, young female advocates have not let themselves be deterred. They have been engaging in various online platforms, encouraging young women to share experiences on the impact of COVID-19 and report on instances of GBV, as reports have increased. “The meetings are a way of keeping in touch with friends and sharing experience but we as young people will like to do more”, explained Success. “We want the government to listen to our concerns. We also want our voices to be heard and our suggestions to become part of the solution to the problems”
- Children Believe (Paraguay) – Feeding communities in need
To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Paraguay has been in lockdown since March. Seeing the stress that this placed on disadvantaged communities and informal workers, Luis Ferreira, a 22-year old young man, felt compelled to do something. As one of the seven Children Believe global youth ambassadors, he is committed to creating positive change in his hometown. “I didn’t know how to help, but I knew about the need in my community,” he said. “It was [heartbreaking] to see how people didn’t have anything to eat. My heart called me to help, and I instantly volunteered.” Luis joined one of Children Believe’s volunteer teams and helped to deliver over 1,000 food and household hygiene kits to the children that they sponsor and their families, especially those whose parents or caregivers are informal workers, self-employed or unemployed. “The reaction of the people was incredible,” he recalls. “They said: ‘Thank you! Thanks to you, I will be able to eat today.” Luis was deeply affected by the people he encountered, many of whom weren’t thinking of themselves through the difficult time. He was amazed to see the extent of the community spirit: neighbors who had received food and medical kits even shared what they had received with those who had nothing.
- Faten Khalfallah Hammouda (Tunisia) – Creating PPE to keep medical professionals safe
All over the world, many medical professionals continue to work tirelessly but do not have the equipment that they need to keep them safe. After seeing the evolution of the situation in Italy, Faten Khalfallah Hammouda, a young Tunisian woman, decided to get to work to keep her country’s doctors and nurses protected. Ever since March 24th, she and her family have been sending homemade personal protective equipment to a local doctor in the city of Sfax who then distributes them to his medical staff. Having surpassed her goal of printing over 1,000 face protective shields by mid-April, and she was able to make an additional 300 shields for local police and military members. Recently, she began to produce protective gowns and face shields, sewing them using colorful fabric that will spread joy. She has also reached out to her First Skills Club mentees, who are adept in the creation of mobile apps, awareness videos, and robots that can serve as resources. Faten’s worked has yielded many positive outcomes: as she and her team continue to produce PPE, many Tunisian youth have been inspired to launch similar initiatives to reach more doctors. Hoping to diversify her work, Faten has launched a competition that will showcase tech solutions for the effects of COVID-19 in her community as well. “It’s my duty toward my country and my community, and I’m so happy to help and inspire young generation”, she asserts. “Since I am alive and I am able, I will never stop working.”
- Anjinsen Valamootoo (Mauritius) – Focusing on addressing mental health best practices
As a resident of the island of Mauritius, Anjinsen Valamootoo and the members of the Quatre Bornes chapter of JCI wanted to make sure that the members of their communities were able to remain happy and mentally healthy during the taxing lockdown. On April 5th, 2020, JCI Quatre Bornes held an interactive session on Zoom entitled “Confinement Sans Stress” (Stress-Free Confinement), led by Ms. Rebecca Nulliah, a Shamanic and Reiki Practitioner and Master Teacher, in collaboration with Mind Matters. The workshops allowed the citizens of Quatre Bornes to share their feelings and regain a sense of community that had been lost during the lockdown. Building on this positive experience, Anjinsen and his team held a second interactive session on April 13th, organized in collaboration with the University of Mauritius and Mind Matters, focused on mental health. Various speakers came forward to share coping mechanisms and techniques and guided ensuing discussions to ensure that everyone was well equipped to deal with the stress that they were experiencing. Anjinsen and his team saw the events as successes, and came out with tools that helped them as well. “As [one of the speakers] rightly said; “The journey is ahead and it will shape us in the people we become”, he recalled. “We must all agree that is crisis is definitely a reflection time for humanity”.
- Shivang Verma (India) – Giving time to make sure everyone is properly equipped
When the pandemic spread to India, Shivang Verma noticed a severe lack of awareness among people in his community — many were not informed of the proper prevention and protection techniques, leaving them at risk. Although the information was available online, it was spread across various government portals, so Shivang decided to compile all the necessary information into one place, make accompanying sketches and share her findings and art on various Indian government portals, social media, and through the health ministry. While the sketches were initially made to help raise awareness online, their impact soon spread: Some of the sketches were printed and posted in government offices, shops and on roads; the entire collection was compiled into a single pdf and spread to various communities, and Shivang sketched 102 motivational posters to support medical professionals and volunteers fighting COVID-19 (which landed her a place in the Asia Book of Records!) In addition to this work, Shivang has continued his usual work of working to support a number of water conservation causes and promote over 250 petitions related to global issues.
- Diana Armento (Italy) – Uniting a community
Rome’s Pigneto neighborhood is a very particular one, known for its interesting mix of older, established, retired residents and young creatives brought in by gentrification efforts. When the quarantine began in Italy, the other group became home bound for feats of contracting the fast-spreading disease. This prompted many of Pigneto’s younger citizens to find ways to mobilize and support them. When the stay at home order was put in place, Diana Armento, a young Pigneto resident, and a few of her friends put out calls for volunteers. Within 3 days, 200 young people aged 25 to 30 had signed up, and the Sparwasser cultural initiative was created. With the help of her team, Diana matched each volunteer with an older person living in their area (in order to facilitate transport and minimize exposure to the virus) and organized grocery and supply delivery routes for them. Many volunteers also made sure to keep their elderly neighbors company through telephone calls. In addition to bringing Pigneto’s communities closer together, Sparwasser has helped to fill in a gap that authorities have struggled to address.
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.
For our next edition, we would like to highlight the work of young people living with disabilities who are working to support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you know other young people with disabilities who are showing exceptional leadership in time of this pandemic please let us know at email@example.com.
Read my other Blogs:
Meet 10 leaders who can inspire you to change the world (1st Edition)