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Who are you during this COVID-19 pandemic? Paving the path to a brighter future

By Nicole de Paula

There is no reason to deny reality. We seem to be living a nightmare. The COVID-19 is no surprise for those interested in the health-environment nexus and yet the world was caught by surprise. We are navigating troubled waters while building our boats. During these trying times, each one of us should look in the mirror and ask: who am I?

Social distancing and hand-washing are only truly possible for people who have a house and access to water and sanitation and hygiene. However, 1 in 3 people globally do not have access to safe drinking water, according to the UNICEF and the WHO.

If these measures are the best we can do to fight an invisible enemy, it goes without saying that more than two billion people are unable to effectively protect themselves.

Beyond moral reasons, inequalities during a pandemic demonstrates how collectively vulnerable we are. During a crisis, everyone has a choice. Lamenting and contributing to the chaos is a no go. What is important is empower ourselves and others to try to overcome this difficult times as soon as possible.

Undoubtedly, the corona outbreak requires the best of all of us. Here I share some top ideas to help those who need the most, mainly health workers on the frontlines, people with low income and no safety nets, and the elderly and women. There are three simple ways that we can make ourselves useful: volunteering, donating, and listening.

"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."  Charles Dickens

The coronavirus outbreak is hitting countries at different times and different intensities. This is a direct function of countries' levels of preparedness, speed of response and respect to the rules of social distancing.

The elderly are the most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic and that's why social distancing is even more important for this group. What is troubling, however, is that this forced isolation is hitting those who already suffered from loneliness the most.

I found that Meals on Wheels in the US is creating emergency funds for senior populations and their “telephone reassurance” programs can also help to support the elderly via phone.

All of the sudden, health workers are in deep need to have their meals prepared, houses cleaned, kids looked after, or simply some free time to catch up on sleep. Some small logistic helps can save a life! In Australia, I particular enjoyed the idea of "order lunch and pay it forward" and the possibility to adopt a healthcare worker. In the first case, if you are in the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, you can order an at-home desk lunch delivery and your meal order will be matched with a second one donated to a women’s shelter or soup kitchen, mostly delivered to women in need. In the second example, called Adopt a Healthcare Worker, a Facebook page with more than 50,000 is a place to provide some relief for this group of workers under extreme pressure.

"No one is too small to make a difference" Greta Thunberg

Large corporations and well-known philanthropies can make a difference in times like this. But you don't need to sit on a mountain of money to make a difference today. It is particularly advisable to find organizations that are doing reputable work on “WASH”- water, sanitation and hygiene.

The Red Cross, for example, is adapting its work to provide relief also by virtual tools and remote work. For a family who has lost everything after a disaster, they can still provide financial assistance and support over the phone to provide mental health support. Your donation can be part of this effort. Doctors Without Borders is another good candidate to receive your support.

“Someone’s blood saved my life and made my mom smile – was that you?”

Health organisations are urging healthy people to donate blood and this is a less discussed topic. Currently, there is no evidence that Coronavirus can be transmitted through blood transfusion. It is worth checking if your city is in need of donors. If so, don't hesitate to lend an arm!

Finally, what gives me strength during this quarantine is the thought that such traumatic times can spark a much better world in the long term. We are social and creative animals. This means that we can quickly adapt and find new ways of coming together. Self distancing does not need to feel lonely, if you find ways to give meaning to this experience. Indeed, "life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Now is the time to be brave.

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