From opening our eyes to stark inequalities, to laying bare age-old social, economic and cultural issues and just how deeply entrenched in our society they are; the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake up call for us. But where it’s brought out the worst in us, it’s also prompted the best in us. In the chaos of the pandemic, we’ve seen stories of humanity, kindness and empathy from across communities. Stories that bring hope and inspire. Who are the people who make these stories though? What is it about them that gives them the drive to step out of their comfort zones and act with compassion?
We had some key learnings over an hour-long conversation with four of these COVID-19 heroes last week on an Instagram Live session organised as a part of #EveryOneCounts, a campaign by Save the Children India and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, India. Moderated by Pragya Vats, head of campaigns at Save the Children, here’s what each changemaker left us with:
The first guest in the conversation, Shaaz Mehmood, who began the Youth Feed India initiative right at the beginning of the lockdown, spoke about how it all fell into place for him in one moment, when he learned about the plight of the migrant workers and sent a message to his friends to take action. The response he got was overwhelming and started an initiative, which to date has managed to distribute over 50,000 meals to those who needed it.
The journey wasn’t easy, and a lot of learning happened over the two months, be it about the right precautions and way forward, or organisation and distribution using the money they raised. “The realisation that it’s not about what they want to eat, but just being able to get something to eat – that really hit me,” he said, when asked about what drove him to keep at it, despite the challenges.
His experiences and the stories he’s seen have convince him that any young person who is able to feed themselves at this time should take a step to help those who can’t.
The second guest, Farhana Roshan, a child champion from a small displaced community, spoke with passion about her work in ensuring that the lockdown wouldn’t deter her neighbours from sending their daughters back to school.
As an aspiring IAS officer, who idolises education activist Malala Yousefzai, Farhana, at the age of 14, won’t stop stressing on the importance of personal hygiene, safety and precautions at this time. As a confident young leader in her community, she’s spearheaded several conversations to ensure there’s a balance of formal and informal (madrasa) education in her community.
“Log kahte hain ladki padh kar kya kar legi?” she said, saying that she wishes to change this mindset when she becomes an IAS officer in future. To her, ensuring every last girl in the community is educated and skilled is the biggest force resolving her drive to create a gender equal community.
A 24-year-old founder of a company, Myna Mahila Foundation, Suhani Jalota was the third panelist in the discussion and spoke at length about what made her take up the issue of women’s healthcare in Mumbai’s slum communities.
“I’ve always been compelled by women’s stories,” she said. “It really angered me to hear about how women are treated in so many sections.”
During this pandemic, Suhani’s organisation has been responsible for providing ration and sanitary relief , creating a sensitisation prgoramme to address rising domestic and sexual abuse of women and children, and more. Learning, listening and finding out about others’ stories has been what she bases her experiences and work upon.
Mohammed Razib, a young man who worked in spite a lot of difficulties to complete his education is a poet and writer, who’s helping create awareness in his community about COVID-19 through poems, which he’s sharing on WhatsApp.
“Helping my community channels my creativity,” he said. “And to win against this pandemic, we need preventive measures to replace panic and fear.”
Inspired? Catch the whole conversation here:
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Watch: @pragyavats of @stc_india talks to four inspiring changemakers about their work in building a safer, better, brighter world during and after the #covid19 pandemic! @refugees @uninindia @mynamahila @suhani.jalota @shaazmehmood @youthfeedindiaofficial @farhanaroshan5 @the_mdrazib
Know the story of a COVID-hero like the ones above? Publish it with #EveryOneCounts, a campaign by Save the Children India and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in partnership with YKA, and get featured as an author in a book!