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Why Young People Are the Most Important Asset During COVID-19

A call to action to make good use of our privilege.


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Edward Yo

3 years ago | 4 min read

By now, COVID-19 has proven to be much bigger than a small nuisance on the surface of everyone’s life.

The pandemic has made the headlines of most news outlets, sparks chaos over multiple sectors from national security to tourism and causes millions of people to fall into poverty in Indonesia alone.[1]

During these times of crisis, it is evident that everyone is preoccupied with their problems.

Politicians are figuring out how to calm ongoing social tension, shop owners are brainstorming ways to rejuvenate their businesses, and healthcare workers are still fighting the enemy on the frontline.

Yet, there is one group of the population who seems to be enjoying more free time than usual: young people. Even better, we are also the least affected by the virus in terms of mortality and morbidity.

Being young amid this outbreak probably feels like living in a fictional paradise; we have fewer things to worry about compared to the adults, and most of us are not even prone to developing life-threatening complications of COVID-19.

This is precisely why we are the most important asset now.

The past several months have made me realize that we complain too much about how things did not turn out to be the way we had expected despite being granted the comfort of home.

Some of us have even (irresponsibly) decided to go outside with no masks and catch up with friends.

I understand that we’ve all been dying to watch Black Widow and Mulan in theatres (which are set to re-open on 29th of July), but the feeling of desperation is not even close to the one felt by jobless workers and starving families.

Although some communities argue that young people should only focus on their studies, I believe that we can still prioritize our education while playing a bigger role in real-world problems.

Several months ago, a 16-year-old student pilot in Virginia named TJ Kim practiced his flying skills by delivering medical supplies to small hospitals in rural areas.[2]

In March, my campus ordered all students to stay at home and access all the learning materials via online platforms. Other than catching up on online medical assignments, I practically had nothing else to do.

I chose to re-install my favorite mobile games, watched the latest TV shows, and cooked some meals I regret making. The government has constantly reminded us millennials to be responsible by staying at home, since we are very likely to become asymptomatic carriers. While this is true, is that the only thing we are capable of?

The youth can start making a real impact through online volunteering. Plus, online volunteerism respects the policy of physical distancing.


Photo from https://www.unv.org/News/Volunteering-online-during-lockdown-fight-COVID-19

Volunteering can be a fun way to kill time while doing our part against COVID-19 at the same time. In April, I decided to apply to become a United Nations Online Volunteer [3] for a non-profit organization based in Cameroon known as Cameroon Association of Active Youths (CAMAAY).

Due to my previous experience in team management and planning, I was asked to serve as the Project Director. Our team consists of 25 volunteers from around the world (France, Italy, Indonesia, UK, China, etc.) with various backgrounds (engineering, medicine, law, computer science, etc.).

The project that we’re currently working on – known as Cameroon Unites Against COVID-19 Project – is a pandemic relief effort that aims to raise public awareness on COVID-19 prevention through an education campaign.

We also plan to equip the people there with necessary protection by distributing 1,000 cloth masks, soaps, and hand sanitizers with the help of local volunteers.

Within 3 weeks, we have managed to write a comprehensive project proposal, start a fundraising page, and produce several campaign materials. Being the youngest in the team yet having the biggest responsibility, I recognize that age does not hinder us from doing good and being useful to the community.

The best part of the job is how I am able to remain at home while keeping control of everything. Despite our different time zones, we routinely conduct meetings through video conferencing platforms. All I need is a laptop and a good Internet connection.

Moreover, volunteerism can also be a stepping stone to exciting future opportunities. I asked my senior, Dr. Mikhael Yosia, who is currently working as a research coordinator for MSF Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Spain, regarding his previous experience in volunteering and how it had benefited his career.

During his years as a medical student, he had joined volunteering programs in organization and youth movement in the field of global diplomacy and health policy.

By becoming a volunteer, he had gained the opportunity to hone skills other than the one he received in his formal education as a medical doctor.

Skills in organization, teamwork, negotiation, program management, and coordination would surely give any youth an extra edge over their peers in the long run.

He emphasized that “Youth should realize that their free time is a luxury, and whatever they do with it would make or break them in the future.”

For all the young people who also want to take part in this fight, there are three things you can start doing now. First, do plenty of research on available volunteering opportunities on the web.

I have seen a lot of organizations and companies recruiting online volunteers via LinkedIn, Instagram, and other web pages. Second, read through the opportunities and see which one of those suits your skills and interest. Last but not least, believe in your potential and make good use of your free time.

Since all the adults already have their own roles to play, I think what the world needs now is extra help from us millennials. Young people are full of creative ideas, but sometimes all we need is a little push from the back. In this case, online volunteering is the little push we need to be confident and participate in the fight against COVID-19 from home.

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