CommunityHealthSilver linings in Covid-19 times

From helping the elderly shop for food to providing working mothers with creative ideas for their children, people are coming together in unprecedented acts of solidarity during the Covid-19 crisis. With the coronavirus forcing everyone to remain home to avoid increasing transmission, a growing number of silver linings have emerged, revealing the essential goodness at the core of humanity. In Europe, star footballer Lionel Messi donated US$1 million worth of equipment this week to a...
Caline Malek Caline MalekMarch 31, 202013 min
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silver linings Covid-19Alana Afridi checks out a sign she made in Toronto, Canada/Photo courtesy Hala Khalaf

From helping the elderly shop for food to providing working mothers with creative ideas for their children, people are coming together in unprecedented acts of solidarity during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the coronavirus forcing everyone to remain home to avoid increasing transmission, a growing number of silver linings have emerged, revealing the essential goodness at the core of humanity.

In Europe, star footballer Lionel Messi donated US$1 million worth of equipment this week to a Barcelona hospital to treat infected patients and help fund research into COVID-19. His Portuguese counterpart, Cristiano Ronaldo, matched his donation to help two hospitals in Lisbon and Porto.

Hala Khalaf, a long-time resident of the UAE moved to Canada with her family last year. Months of adventure, fun and new experiences followed as they settled down in Toronto. But when Covid-19 descended, her seven-year-old, Alana began to fixate on how much she missed Dubai and her friends there.

“I needed to distract her from all that negativity,” says Khalaf. She encouraged her daughter to draw some uplifting messages with slogans such as “be kind” and “stay positive.”

“She created five more drawings that day and peppered them with kind messages, then asked me if she could hang them outside in our window so other kids who were bored and lonely like her could see them and cheer up,” says Khalaf. “I did one better and offered to take her out for a walk and help her tape them to lamp posts and community boards in our neighborhood. She was thrilled with the idea and couldn’t make more signs fast enough.”

silver linings 3
Photo courtesy Hala Khalaf

Alana’s signs went up on bus stops, trees, her school’s walls, in friend’s mailboxes and at the local grocery store. Mothers in their neighborhood began posting on Facebook groups about how much the signs had cheered their children up and other children joined in by making their own signs.

“I shared what she’d done on Instagram and friends in the UK and in the US asked if they could emulate her, as did friends in Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” says Khalaf. “It amazed her that children in other parts of the world, and especially in our old home were connecting with her in that way… Alana’s need to spread kindness and positivity on our street further cemented our feelings of belonging here and allowed us to feel like we’ve given back a little during a confusing, scary time where community means everything.”

In the Middle East, major supermarket chains in Saudi Arabia announced the introduction of dedicated shopping hours for the elderly and people with disabilities, while residents across the UAE have posted messages in their buildings and within their community to help those in need.

“It is in these moments that we need to be there for one another,” says Salwa Akram, a 35-year-old Egyptian living in Dubai. “I can easily get in my car and buy food or medicine from supermarkets and pharmacies for those who don’t have the luxury of time or the physical ability. It is only right that we act as human beings and help one another in such tough times.”

Although the UAE’s population is relatively young, Akram and another neighbor have let their community know they are ready to give assistance where needed.

“It’s amazing that it took a pandemic for us to start behaving like basic human beings,” she says. “We never used to think about things like these – mainly because we didn’t have to – but it’s really important that we each play a part in giving back to our society. One act of kindness can go such a long way and trickle down to so many others.”

As more people start to put others before themselves, providing help in any way they can, the human race is slowly but surely beginning to feel the positive impact of an enlightened collective consciousness.

Soraya Jouzy, business development director of Pearl Tree, a Dubai-based distributor of natural beauty, wellness and lifestyle brands, slashed the prices of her products in half and started offering free delivery to help support the wellbeing movement.

“There’s no cure for Covid-19, there’s only prevention,” she explains. “What is key is that if we don’t sleep well and don’t reduce our stress levels, we are putting pressure on our immune system. We need that calm and happiness to be balanced.”

Her chemical-free brands, such as Sodashi and Neom, help with such wellbeing needs.

“We want to share it and make it accessible to as many people as possible because we’re all in this together,” she adds. “We want people to be safe and we can only get through this together. The overexposure of hand sanitizer and increased chemicals doesn’t sit well with us, so we’re trying to offer something clean and in line with that balance while taking away that mental stress.”

Dina Zahran
Dina Zahran/Instagram

Social media influencers are using their platforms to spread good, too. Dina Zahran, a 32-year-old Palestinian mother-of-two living in Dubai, has used her Instagram page to bring positivity into the daily life of her 105,000 followers. 

She also shares different activities with her children to provide other mothers with creative ideas. 

“My hope is that, through that, I can inspire someone to do something that makes them feel better and more positive about the situation,” she explains. “While it feels like my content is all over the place right now, between makeup tutorials followed by a positivity talk followed by a kid’s activity, it’s very much just a reflection of my life at the moment and I think most people connect with that or find something in there that they can relate to.” 

She believes people have welcomed her “break from the news” and understand her mission of trying to lighten the mood, even if it is just for a minute. 

“It is absolutely essential for people to start helping each other in different ways in these times,” she adds. “One of the biggest lessons that we’re learning from this situation is that we are all on the same side and only by uniting and working together can we overcome this. Whether it’s a kind comment that can lift someone’s mood or an extra tip for someone in the service industry who is struggling at this time, it is essential that we all look out for and care for one another because, at the end of the day, that human connection and sense of community is what makes us strong.”

 

Caline Malek

Caline Malek

Caline Malek is a freelance journalist, based in Dubai, who writes about current affairs across the Middle East. Spirituality, health and meditation keep her balanced.

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