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Gail Maluga (South Africa)

Hi, my name is Gail M and I’m the founder of Girl with a Purpose Foundation, a registered non-profit organization aimed to equip and empower youth. Although it was tough to cancel most of our programs this year, such as our annual speech competition, monthly pads drive, birthday celebrations, etc. due to the lockdown and the pandemic, we have been working tirelessly to make sure that we do home-schooling with these kids just to keep them busy and help them recover and be prepared when they return to school. We had to reach out to the community to volunteer in teaching subjects that they have difficulties with such as maths, science, accounting, English, etc. I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy because most of these kids have limited access to the internet and can’t always do video calls as most of our tutors are in other provinces. We also introduced a new agriculture program and that worked best during lockdown, it kept most kids busy with outside activities.

With the number of cases increasing in South Africa, we can only hope that we won’t lose lives but have more people recovering.  Truth is a lot has changed. The abnormal is becoming normal. Ever since the lockdown was declared due to the global pandemic that has shocked many, bringing the world to a standstill, many people have lost their jobs and more families have been affected leaving them financially strained. School and universities are closed down to avoid the spread and sadly many learners are falling behind. Most universities are doing online learning which for most students is a big adjustment and not so productive. As for primary school and high school learners, its tough. Only those who go to private schools are getting lessons and the rest from public schools are home doing nothing which is frustrating becoming frustrating for them.

Personally for me, it hasn’t been easy especially the lockdown. I had to work from home and with the kind of work I do which is dealing with huge finances because I’m working for an investment company, it was straining but at the same time I learned that it is possible to work from home and be able to spend time with family. I truly enjoyed my time though sometimes it wasn’t so nice because staying in one place can affect even your productivity, however, I used that time to also equip myself and think of creative ideas that I can use to contribute to my community. 

I also run a publication company and image consultation company and everything just came to a standstill because there was no way we could print any books for clients or buy materials for clothes. The main product of my image consulting company is that we hire graduation gowns and since graduation ceremonies were postponed, it was a challenge. So all I can say is, its been tough. However, through all this, I still have great hope that we shall recover from this and we will be stronger than ever before. I’m also working on new strategies for my business and learning more about digital marketing which I believe will contribute a lot to grow my business. When all has been said and done, we choose to remain standing and look forward to what is ahead.

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Juma Mkwela (South Africa)

My name is Juma Mkwela and in the best of times, I’m busy running Juma Art Tours – a social enterprise connecting the most vulnerable of Capetonians with the people visiting the Mother City* through art, bicycling, and gardening. We connect visitors and locals through responsible tourism that create sustainable projects. The visitors get to connect with locals through mural painting and creating home gardens and during the process, many stories are shared. Our home gardens have been successful for 5 years; some families do prepare traditional meals with the vegetables and stories are shared.

Amid the Coronavirus global pandemic, the mission of Juma Art Tours – creating a positive and sustainable change in Cape Town through tours and community projects – is at a standstill. Yet our vision of connecting people across socio-economic, cultural, and racial backgrounds remains unchanged.

You see, to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, starting on March 27th the South African government implemented strict lockdown measures for an initial period of three weeks, which have now been extended for additional two weeks through the end of April 2020. Unlike social distancing and quarantine guidelines in most European countries and the US, the South African lockdown is not voluntary. One must remain at home at all times unless one is going to a grocery store or a pharmacy and any violators will be arrested and prosecuted.

The good news is that the lockdown is showing early signs of success. Coronavirus infections in Cape Town and throughout South Africa, although growing, remain at levels far below cities and countries in other parts of the world.

The bad news is that the most vulnerable of Capetonians are suffering an outsized share of the burden for the wellbeing of all South Africans. Many families of Khayelitsha, Langa, Guguletu, and other township areas in Cape Town have limited access to running water {so essential for hand-washing} on any given day. Now, during the lockdown, their access to economic activity and thus means of making a living is also severely limited. They must choose between staying at home {too often single-room dwellings constructed of corrugated steel and other refuse materials}, unable to work and thus facing shortages of basics such as food, medicine, and water, or breaking the lockdown rules and risking not only legal repercussions but also increased exposure to the Coronavirus.

It is for this reason that Juma Art Tours has been engaged in local relief efforts, gathering and distribution of basic food provisions such as flour, rice, maize, cooking oil, soap, vegetables, sugar, and water to the most vulnerable of families throughout Cape Town.

Even if you’re reading this from half a world away – as a member of our global family – you can remain connected by donating today. < http://fnd.us/JumaArtTours4CoronavirusRelief?ref=sh_08Brre

In the spirit of UBUNTU {I am because we are} … THANK YOU!

*Mother City: A popular nickname for Cape Town, South Africa

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Pa O. Diallo (Senegal)

The younger generation in its whole have always been the audience of ‘history tellings’ through books and certain studies which sometimes have some reserve regarding the truth. That is to say if that generation did not attend the Coronavirus pandemic, they would see it the same way they did with events that can be considered like footsteps in the history of mankind. Living the situation in its peak and the spread of technologies which facilitate the access of information to everyone, will be enough for the coming generations to hear the same version of this period of history. 
However, the easy access to information (which has an important value in terms of economy) becomes an obstacle for the ordinary people who do not really know which the right information is. That is what leads Denzel Washington, one of the most famous Hollywood actors, to state these words: If you listen to the news, you are misinformed. And if you don’t listen to the news, you are not informed hence this quote: Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
To the coming generations; you have all the devices and materials to get a wider and better understanding of this situation, now it is your responsibility to know where to find it…

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Chelvin Ramsamy (Mauritius)

Youth Leader from Mauritius Combating COVID-19: SAREPTA Initiative

Passionate about making a positive contribution to society since his life-changing journey at the President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI Cohort 17) in South Africa in May 2019, Chelvin Ramsamy from Mauritius who works as Special Assistant Advisor (Regional Integration) at the AUC Bureau of the Chairperson of the African Union, currently sits on the International Executive Boards of the Africa-Asia Youth Foundation (Continent Director Africa) and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (Regional Associate Southern Africa) and is the founder of Let’s Glow Organisation, has joined forces with some 10 other YALI Alumni and Mandela Washington Fellows from Mauritius to implement a noble collective cause from grassroots level: SAREPTA Initiative.

SAREPTA is a citizens’ initiative to offer food packs to vulnerable families who are not amongst the 35,000 beneficiaries on the Social Register of Mauritius and therefore cannot benefit from State assistance. Since the launch of SAREPTA, Mauritian citizens and businesses have responded very positively, both through food donations and generous monetary contributions to a bank account set up for that purpose. Their active support and solidarity have enabled the SAREPTA team to answer the plea of all these poor families. Chelvin is working collaboratively with the team – all young but highly professionals from a wide range of fields – as they make calls to needy families, prepare the food packs, request for donations and update the lists of beneficiaries. In particular, the initiative considers as a priority the conditions of female health poverty and this through distribution of sanitary napkins for beneficiaries facing “period poverty”.

Chelvin describes his experience as being unique, breathtakingly good and deeply enriching. Wearing a mandatory mask and respecting social distancing, this young leader who is travelling to all regions of the island for distributing basic necessities to the underprivileged ones finds the simple act of helping others deeply gratifying. Chelvin remains convinced that young people must demonstrate values of mutual support and compassion because this pandemic affects all. The risk is enormous though for Chelvin who is exposing his own live to prevent poor families from moving en masse in search of food. Yet, driven by a belief that bringing hope, smile and care in the lives of impoverished and homeless ones is always a blessing, Chelvin’s message is that everyone can show patriotism firmly rooted in love, solidarity and courageous determination by supporting the initiative.

The project has impacted countless lives – far exceeding their initial target of 800 families – and encouraging citizens to help the hungriest communities. Through SAREPTA Initiative, Chelvin is effectively answering President John Kennedy’s call: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

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Lesedi Senamele Matlala (South Africa)

Education is a fundamental human right that is globally recognized and recorded in many education policies, including among African countries. As a research educationalist and young leader in the education space, making sure that learning is taking place during this epidemic crisis is what has being keeping me busy.

In South Africa, the concerns of millions of children for the future are the most common ones among the government, as more than a million learners currently leave school. There are fears that the worst is yet to come. Even without taking into account the recent challenges of this pandemic crisis, most learners in South Africa remain deprived in terms of access to education, affordability and equity.

Part of my job as an Educational Researcher is to join in researching and developing educational projects together with the world’s best academics, evaluators, educational activists and leaders in human rights protection in order to contribute meaningfully to shaping solutions to pressures being placed on education systems using evidence-based approaches and solve the global problems of mankind.

Despite this pandemic catastrophe that the world is facing, I have many goals and plans which revolve around improvement of youth well-being, involvement of young people in Africa society, and finding and promoting young leaders. That’s why I strived to take part in an educational organisation named JET Education Services as a Monitoring and Evaluation Researcher.

As a postgraduate student, my learning experience has not been changed much, given the point that I communicate with my lectures using digital devices, the learning also takes place online, which involves attending and participating on online webinars, workshops, trainings, and other related conferences.

In my experience with online learning, the good far outweigh the bad. Taking online learning has saved me money and time. Having a full time job makes it very difficult to schedule classes. The hours I have scheduled at my job conflict with the times that most my learnings are offered. The use of online learning has made things easier. It is very convenient for me not having to meet on a regular basis. However, with the experiences of other students around me is quite different, as online access is not that easy, where the internet is used by just 24 percent of the population and low availability, high prices and regular power interruptions are a major obstacle.

For learners to continue learning during this pandemic crisis, it is important for the educationalist and public officials to begin to consider and evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 in the education sector, because it would otherwise be too costly and too late to rebound. The approach must be all-inclusive and involve all stakeholders, including the civil society and private sector.

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Donald Bico Kariseb (Namibia)

Namibia has not really been hit by Covid-19 in a very harsh way. However our daily life has been affected. The major effect of Covid-19 here has been the lockdown. Personally as an essential service being at the forefront of the News it has not been easy to watch how alot of people are affected by the lockdown, how street vendors were forced by this pandemic to close off their source of income and stay home, how people have been over crowding each other in townships because they don’t have a mansion to scatter around.My job as a radio presenter was to keep my listeners at ease in this unorthodox times. 
Although being a social person the lockdown had a significant impact on my social life and I mean I thrive off human interactions going out and seeing new things, meeting new people and so on. I don’t know but this gives me a certain type of high a type of high that makes me appreciate life a little bit more. All that went away when the lockdown came into place.
I was forced to get to spend time with myself and not that I don’t enjoy this but I get bored too easily and my life was decreased to a routine of work and home. For the first two weeks this was hard on me I couldn’t feed my soul with what it desires I had to unearth alot of my feelings I’ve been avoiding. But nonetheless, the lock down had given me a new reality I am not used to one when I think of it reminds me of a specific scene in Scandal (The Fixer) named “the black hole” where Huck was put in a black hole and had to go wild with his imagination to keep sane. For me this is the same. I have to find an escape whether it’s through books or series to keep sane, though I still cringe when I see people hug and touch each other on TV. The lock down has had a interesting twist but I for one can’t wait to see what the next reality looks like.

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SAREPTA Initiative (Mauritius)

As a young African leader, I would like to share the story of a group of young heroes leading during the COVID-19 crisis in Mauritius through SAREPTA Initiative which is a voluntary community action to help vulnerable families. (Loveena S. Sungkur)

SAREPTA: YOUNG HEROES LEADING IN CRISIS TIMES

COVID-19, the CoronaVirus Pandemic has brought around 210 countries on their knees and Mauritius was not spared. The first three cases were detected on 19 March 2020, now with 322 registered cases and the death toll amounts to 10. With a consequent drop on new cases, the medical officials are positively working at contact tracing. 306 patients have recovered during the month of April 2020. This recovery rate so far lights up a spark of hope while careful measures are still maintained.

Authorities took stringent and timely measures right when the first few cases were declared. The initial lockdown has been extended up to mid May 2020 with only essential services running. Discipline is maintained with police patrols, road blocks, verification of work access permits, controlled specific days access to supermarkets in alphabetical order with no children allowed. Strict physical distancing has been sine qua non  protocol for public adherence.

Up to half of our annual budget is dedicated to the welfare state with other departments led by the Government. It also includes social benefits allocated to families registered on the Social Register of Mauritius (SRM) with a low household income. During this pandemic, authorities are offering food support only to SRM registered families. Unfortunately, unregistered unemployed ones and many working in the informal sectors are also on the verge of  unemployment with no fixed income, resulting in lack of food, sanitation, unpaid rents and utilities bills. Single affected mothers with several children are also facing hardships. Amidst this pandemic, curators of  LIFEF and ten dynamic alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Mauritius Chapter with engaged citizens conceptualised Project SAREPTA to respond to this public outcry. This community action supports inclusion of vulnerable non SRM families through humanitarian food support and distribution of sanitation products during this pandemic.

Loveena S. Sungkur, Human Rights Advocate, 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and volunteer at SAREPTA actively helps with others to coordinate smooth running of the project through advocacy to the media and outreach to families and donors. The motto is to ‘start from where you are, with what you have’ which means anybody can help, whether from their home, through online networks, by conducting phone-calls and screening of needy persons and delivery of food packs. SAREPTA has already distributed food packs to 919 vulnerable persons across the island while 629 individuals are still on our waiting list at the moment.

As a youth-led voluntary citizens initiative, SAREPTA depends solely on the courageous engagement of these young leaders, citizens and support through donations to this laudable cause. Volunteers are tirelessly knocking on donors’ doors to positively respond to the needs. Despite the challenges these few young leaders are risking their lives daily to help feed affected families. This also creates a chain of solidarity where everyone can become a positive outreacher. Loveena is one of these young African leaders who has affirmed her engagement with SAREPTA by improving the livelihoods of thousands of Mauritian beneficiaries.

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Azil Momar Lo (Senegal)

In my whole modest career as a researcher/fact-checker, never have I witnessed so much misinformation and disformation, as Covid-19 is wreaking havoc upon the world.

Studies have shown that fake news travel faster through messaging apps like Whatsapp. I bet each one of us has at least once received a message advising us to try a quick fake remedy against the novel coronavirus. And sadly, this usually comes from your loved ones, who yet had good intentions when sharing.

This is what keeps me busy, as my job is to debunk false information. A few months ago I used to work while laying back on my cosy office, at my workplace, slaying fake news. Those were the good old days. The bygone days!

That is because I have adopted a new way of working, since coronavirus had been declared world international emergency. Telework! Yes, my bed has become my sanctuary ever since. I spend my days working, laptop on my lap all day long, and sometimes I happen to doze off only to wake up even more tired. The main difficulty with working from home is finding the balance of your working hours. You will easily overwork or underwork.

I must say the work discipline and riguor I spent years building is just a thing of the past now. Have you ever gone through the feeling of locking yourself up between four walls day in day out, windows closed, door closed, so as to avoid the noise outside, for you to be able to fully focus ? And it does not help when you’re claustrophobic like me, and when you live in a house like mine, where noise will come from just everyone, even your favorite sibling.

However, there is the good side of the effect of coronavirus on my work. Online meetings have taught me one main thing: so many meetings at the office before the pandemic could have just been simple emails.

Also, there has been more solidarity and care between me and my colleagues. Every online meeting ends with a prayer or note urging us to take care of ourselves and of loved ones.

This pandemic gives me hope, and makes me more human. Because in the end, this too, shall pass.

Azil Momar LO, journalist fact-checker at Africa Check.