Harnessing the current momentum to encourage a global youth led movement towards greater volunteering participation and community engagement efforts as well actively supporting and including young people in the rebuilding of our societies
The crisis has highlighted the importance of collective care efforts within communities around the world and social solidarity in the face of adversity, with growing recognition that only by acting as if the health of one is the health of all and by looking out for and valuing the lives of others can we combat this pandemic and protect each other. This has been epitomized by the truly inspiring efforts of countless young people across the globe who are leading the way in rising up to the challenge and are at the forefront of efforts to help their communities and make a positive difference in these difficult times. There have been fears that in these unprecedented times with the tragic loss of lives, painful economic damage and major disruption to education, careers and everyday experiences, the younger generations who are filled with talent and untapped potential might have lost their chance to contribute to the future and be confined to years of suffering in the aftermath. On the contrary, counteracting the worst stereotypes of young people as being thoughtless, self-absorbed and simultaneously victims of failing systems and perpetrators of trouble, resilient and responsible young people across the globe have played key roles in contributing towards and leading voluntary efforts to help others. Their compassion, creative ideas and tech-savvy and the initiative, energy, and resourcefulness they have shown has ultimately saved lives. From helping connect people when they are apart and developing innovative essential medical equipment and supply chain solutions to volunteering efforts to help those most in need, raising funding and much more, younger generations are manifesting the resilience of and the best of humanity. In these times of crisis young people who selflessly and proactively share their time, talents and resources have proven to be an invaluable and previous underutilised asset, adapting in spite of circumstances and demonstrating vital ingenuity and empathy. When we get through this crisis, history should remember the contributions they made as agents of change.
Furthermore, it has been heartening to see some very encouraging civil society-led responses with strong community engagement and we must ensure these are not short-lived but built upon with greater collaboration between civil society groups and governments moving forward. Beyond the provision of immediate-term relief, civic actors across the world have stepped up to help spearhead efforts around monitoring government responses and speaking truth to power. These range from calling out ineffective and sluggish responses by recalcitrant leaders to the pandemic, to demanding more personal protective equipment and life-saving medical devices for frontline healthcare workers, to pressing governments to make more provisions available to the most at risk such as the elderly and victims of domestic violence, to lobbying for better conditions and support for the most marginalised in society such as migrant workers and refugees, to successfully advocating for eviction moratoriums in order to protect renters, to combatting disinformation, and more. Such efforts must continue in order to ensure our collective safety and prosperity and build a fairer, more inclusive post-crisis world. Prior to the pandemic the economic prospects for young people already made grim reading compared to older generations, but history has shown that young people are hardest hit during financial crises. This time we must not lack generational consciousness and need to fight for reforms that work for us, finally, help young people to prosper and better protect us from further pain resulting from the aftershocks of this crisis and inevitable future ones. We stand at the precipice of transformational change or even further hardship. However, with the right support and investment, particularly into those from the hardest-hit communities, young people can help turn the profound challenges our world faces into opportunities for advancement. As we look to rebuild our societies, younger generations need seats at the table.
One of the legacies of the pandemic could be the injection of youth into volunteering and greater community engagement. As one of the few positive changes that have emerged from this crisis, we want to keep the momentum going long after it is over and create the right environment for young people to lead such efforts. Today the world is home to the largest, most diverse generation of youth in history at nearly 2 billion and almost 90% of these are in developing nations. They have a critical role to play in the recovery and in our long term wellbeing, the health of the planet, and the progress and rebuilding of our societies. Collective care efforts will be more important than ever and we want to ensure the trend continues and help build a global youth-led movement towards greater volunteering participation, where even one hour a week people find time to volunteer and help others. We should build on rather than fear the fact that we are all interconnected and recognise that compassion begets compassion. Everyone has the power to make a positive difference to the world, and as the planet changes, we can use the new technologies that have emerged, the extra time many now have, and will continue to have and different ways of connecting to help others. This is the younger generation’s ‘what did you do during the war?’ moment. We want to ask people around the world a question #AreYouThe1? We hope to see a resounding answer globally that starts a youth-led movement with even contributions as small as just #1HourAWeek. Inspired by Greta Thunberg and #FridaysForFuture, we want to help ensure people all around the world continue the spirit of community engagement and volunteering that we have seen be beacons of hope during this crisis, long after it is over and continue to be shining points of light for generations to come.