“I have great hope for tomorrow, my hope lies in three things – truth, youth and love.” Richard Buckminster Fuller. By Sharon Gardner

It has been more than a year now since the pandemic hit and turned the world upside down. With family in India and the US living a completely different reality to us here in New Zealand, I have witnessed the scathing repercussions of the virus in these other countries. Social distancing, repeated lockdowns, online schooling and not meeting friends and family is the norm they have grown used to for their own survival. 

The 33-day lockdown in New Zealand was hard for most people but particularly for young people who had already been struggling prior to the pandemic. Almost half of young adult Kiwis (18-35) experienced moderate to severe psychological distress during the lockdown (Every-Palmer 2020). These statistics are mirrored in other parts of the world where young people showed increases in depressive and anxiety symptoms and loneliness (Liang 2020, Rogers 2020). The inability to meet friends, a sense of pain and loss from watching family or friends die of the disease, a loss of autonomy with having to stay at home and the loss of outdoor recreational activities were some of the main challenges that young people in Italy and the US faced (Rogers 2021, Fioretti 2020).

Most kiwis saw a ‘silver lining’ in the lockdown by having time to spend time with family, the chance to reprioritize and reflect and they were appreciative of a cleaner, less polluted environment with reduced travel (Every-Palmer 2020). Young people in the US and Italy also spoke of some positives of the pandemic like rediscovering themselves, a renewed sense of family and being part of a unique experience which they could share with their peers (Fioretti 2020, Rogers 2021). 

In these unprecedented difficult times many inspirational young people have been reaching out to the needs in their communities. Armed with their efficient use of technology and their passion and drive to help others, they are creating waves across the world.

The UN Youth Envoy (2020) has 10 blogs showing the heroic and kind acts of more than 100 young people all over the world, engaged with their communities to bring real change. Donald Mudzengerere in Zimbabwe is just one example, who rallied other youth to speak with government officials about the spread of misinformation on the virus. There are many more stories like Donald’s in other parts of the world where young people have helped prevent the spread of misinformation and taught their community safe hygiene practices. There’s also Nourhene Mahmoudi’s online campaign “Outbreak of Generosity'' (UN Youth Envoy 2020) that provides a comprehensive toolkit for young people to  stay engaged and help in their communities in safe and proactive ways. It has been translated into 14 languages and used across Europe. Similar to these stories is an interview published in ‘Greater Good’ (2020) a science-based magazine, that showcases young people finding purpose in adversity to reach out to others. There’s the young 9th grader in India who started an Instagram appeal that helped 3000 migrant women workers travel back to their homes, with the loss of their jobs get recyclable, reusable feminine hygiene products. 

There is so much hope and inspiration in these accounts of compassion, generosity and selfless action by young people who delivered groceries to the elderly, fundraised to feed those without food and who distributed new innovative learning and teaching tools amongst other things.

And so, I end with this quote by architect, philosopher Richard Buckminster Fuller that echoes what I feel “I have great hope for tomorrow, my hope lies in three things – truth, youth and love.”

 

References

Every-Palmer S, Jenkins M, Gendall P, Hoek J, Beaglehole B, Bell C, et al. (2020) Psychological distress, anxiety, family violence, suicidality, and wellbeing in New Zealand during the COVID-19 lockdown: A cross-sectional study. PLoS ONE 15(11): e0241658. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0241658 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0241658#abstract0 

Fioretti C, Palladino BE, Nocentini A and Menesini E (2020) Positive and Negative Experiences of Living in COVID-19 Pandemic: Analysis of Italian Adolescents’ Narratives. Front. Psychol. 11:599531. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.599531 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.599531/full 

Greater good (2020): https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_teens_are_making_meaning_out_of_the_pandemic

Liang, L., Ren, H., Cao, R. et al. The Effect of COVID-19 on Youth Mental Health. Psychiatr Q 91, 841–852 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-020-09744-3

Mudzengerere D (2020) https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2020/04/10-young-people-fighting-covid-2nd-edition/

Rogers, A. A., Ha, T., & Ockey, S. (2021). Adolescents' Perceived Socio-Emotional Impact of COVID-19 and Implications for Mental Health: Results From a U.S.-Based Mixed-Methods Study. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 68(1), 43–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.09.039

UN Youth Envoy (2020): https://www.un.org/youthenvoy/2020/04/meet-10-leaders-who-can-inspire-you-to-change-the-world/