Community solidarity key to getting through pandemic
About three months ago, the media started sounding the alarm regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak that was developing in China. Little did we know that this virus would eventually spread to the rest of the globe, infecting almost 1 million people to date. As this unprecedented health emergency deepens, it is wreaking havoc in many areas.
The economic forecasts are pessimistic and the recovery is largely dependent on a vaccine being developed, tested, manufactured and distributed throughout the globe. Add to that every imaginable disruption you can conjure: Millions have lost their jobs, governments are being forced to offer massive stimulus packages, planes are grounded, schools have shut, parks and gardens are empty, non-essential retail stores and factories have been closed, and health care systems are overstretched.
But there is another, less obvious, pandemic that is transpiring because of the COVID-19 outbreak — a mental health crisis. Suddenly, people have been deprived of soothing human interaction and are isolated from family, friends and colleagues. Sadly, many people have lost their loved ones to the disease. The lockdown has also seen a rise in domestic violence and child abuse cases. Small business owners are seeing their dreams shattering in front of their eyes. Elderly people are being advised to self-isolate, which can deepen their loneliness. People who are already struggling with anxiety and depression could find themselves even more distraught.
Amid this tragic situation, local communities are coming together in solidarity and offering support, kindness and generosity to others. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed many touching stories of how people are keeping their communities connected and resilient. In such cases, community members are among the heroes in this battle.
As governments impose lockdowns and closures, many people have lost their jobs and their sources of livelihood. As a result, they risk losing their homes and are unable to afford basic necessities, such as food. That is why many landlords across the world have waived the rent for their tenants. Restaurant chains, such as the Big Mamma Group in France, Sauce Pizzeria in New York and Nando’s in the US and Canada, have been preparing free meals for hospital workers.
Many grassroots relief funds have been initiated by community members, with the aim of providing expedited financial assistance through the power of crowdsourcing platforms. Fundraisers begin by posting their charitable causes and a target amount on websites such as GoFundMe. Anyone, anywhere can then donate at the click of a button. Dedicated COVID-19 funds have been set up, such as the “Artist + Activist Coronavirus Relief Fund,” which aims to provide grants of up to $750 to affected artists and activists. So far, the fund has managed to raise more than $93,000. Another relief fund has been set up to raise money for food banks in New York — this has raised $31,000, considerably more than its $20,000 goal.
Volunteers are also offering assistance to vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, disabled and low-income families. In Chilmark, a small UK village of just 450 people, volunteers have each been given designated roles. These include checking on people who are self-isolating to make sure they have ample supplies of food and medicine, delivering food, and putting together vegetable boxes from local farm shops. Additionally, experts living in the village are volunteering their skills and knowledge in areas such as financial planning, law, and teaching. A local journalist is publishing a monthly newsletter with useful information on food deliveries, book recommendations, virtual museum tours, and tips on keeping children entertained at home.
Many creatives and freelancers are also developing free digital content on a range of topics so that people can upgrade their skills or simply have fun. Topics range from art activities and cooking to exercise plans. Global Citizen recently launched its “Together At Home” project, which allows musicians to livestream virtual concerts. John Legend, Jon Batiste, Shawn Mendes, and Camila Cabello were among the first to perform, with many other famous singers scheduled in the coming days.
We have witnessed many touching stories of how people are keeping their communities connected and resilient.
Creativebug is an online platform hosting artistic and creative classes for a monthly subscription. It has recently opened up 50 classes for free. Joe Wicks, an English fitness coach and author, has started streaming a daily live workout for children and adults to help them feel energized and healthy. His videos have racked up 22 million views and generated $100,000 in revenue, which he plans to donate to the National Health Service.
Many psychologists are also offering insightful webinars on protecting our mental health during this time. I have recently tuned into a webinar entitled “Emotional Resilience During Uncertain Times,” which was given by Dr. Saliha Afridi, clinical psychologist and managing director of The LightHouse Arabia. The webinar contained useful advice about getting through this difficult period.
These heart-to-heart community efforts have been a salvation for many people. It is important that we share all these beautiful stories so that inspiration can multiply the efforts everywhere.
- Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and children’s literature.