Youth move to forefront of grassroots response throughout the US
CHICAGO — Young people across the United States who have been engaged in Baha’i community-building efforts are swiftly responding to a host of needs arising in their communities from the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“There are deep bonds of friendship between people that have for months or years been working together to contribute to social progress,” says Candace Vance, who follows Baha’i social and economic development activities of the country. “Because of this and the love they have for their communities, many young people are finding that they can’t just watch this crisis go by; they’re using the skills and capacities that they have developed through their participation in Baha’i educational programs to assist those in need.”
A youth from Chicago describes the nature of her group’s efforts. “We’ve developed tools over time to map volunteers and various materials in our neighborhood, and now we’re able to use these to quickly connect people to various necessities, such as collecting and distributing disinfectant wipes.”
Other youth from the area have been creating informative videos about health measures in languages commonly spoken in the community. They are also assisting families that face language barriers to access government services.
Such barriers exist in many other areas, such as in Prince William County, Virginia, where many parents, without access to translators, had been unable to adequately access school programs for their children.
“At first we thought that children missing classes was related to Internet access, but we were wrong,” says a youth from a group that had been engaged in Baha’i educational programs. “It was actually because the parents had no idea of what the school arrangements were.”
These youth, having identified the families requiring additional assistance, are now holding regular online sessions to disseminate administrative information in various languages and to assist their peers with assignments.
In the Triangle area of North Carolina, another group of young people has organized response teams to assist with food distribution, financial aid, and academic tutoring for their neighborhood, where at least six languages are commonly spoken.
From children in Los Angeles, California, who prepared care packages for their neighbors, to youth in Delaware who prepared a tutorial to assist older adults in their community with ordering supplies online, Baha’is of all ages and in all parts of the country are considering the unique needs of their communities and are reaching out to build friendships and to be of service to their society.
“Now more than ever,” says Mrs. Vance, “we are seeing incredible expressions of generosity and creativity across the country. People everywhere are striving to help one another, to keep everyone safe. We are moved to action when we reflect on the spiritual reality of a human being, which is to give generously to others and to act in solidarity.”