There is no doubt that the outbreak of the coronavirus has greatly impacted our sense of normality. As we adjust to this new way of living, the increase of mental health issues, confinement, and vulnerability are a few of the plethora of issues we may face on a day-to-day basis. Despite these challenges, communities are showing their care for each other by coming together during this bleak time to give their support. Many communities are lending a hand to our vulnerable groups, honoring those who have passed away, and engaging in activities whilst social distancing to raise spirits during these uncertain times.
In Britain, thousands of men, women, and children now participate in the weekly tradition of “Clapping for our Carers”. This heartwarming movement began on the March 26, 2020 when Britons gathered at their widows, doorsteps, and balconies expressing their gratitude for the workers of the NHS (National Health Service) and other frontline workers who are risking their lives during this pandemic. Hearing the music of individuals clapping their hands, playing instruments, honking their cars, and banging their pots and pans at their doorsteps reinforces and inspires a sense of hope and civic strength within their community. In times of hardship, Britons prove that a pandemic is not strong enough to diminish their sense of optimism for a brighter future, and show their appreciation for the essential workers who have become the bedrock of the nation as we experience these troubling times together. Not only is this important for boosting morale within a community but it also demonstrates that we can come together as a unified whole.
With the increased queue lengths and shopping restrictions, the vulnerable elderly are finding it difficult to purchase essential items. The compassion and solidarity of my own community has emerged through volunteering to buy items for the high-risk individuals amongst us. Neighbors are dropping notes through letterboxes offering to do the shopping as well as checking up on other people in their community. These generous acts of kindness are important to show people in our society that we care and understand their struggles.
Just like in the UK, on April 19th at 5 pm precisely, millions of people gathered on their rooftops and balconies in several cities and towns across India, clapping their hands and banging their utensils for Prime Minister Modi’s “Janta (Public) Thank You” initiative to show gratitude for our healthcare workers. The Sunday after that, on the 24th, millions of people again stepped out with candles and flashlights to express solidarity in the fight against coronavirus. This was the government’s initiative to bring together communities “at a time when the darkness engulfs us”. Though there were mixed responses, everyone agreed that partaking in a national event was a refreshing change from the loneliness of social isolation.
Closer to home, in the metropolitan area and suburbs of Delhi NCR (National Capital Region- includes the cities of Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad) several thousand poor migrant workers are stranded and unable to go home due to the inter-state borders closing. They are also out of work and have little in savings, meaning they can’t pay the rents at their temporary housings. In urban India, almost every middle-class house employs a domestic worker: as a nanny, aide, housekeeper, driver, gardener, or cook. Most of these people come to big cities looking for work from their rural villages in poorer states. The coronavirus crisis presented a unique problem to them and to their employers. To combat their plight, neighborhoods gathered emergency cash and supplies like vegetables, food grains, basic medicines, hand sanitizers, and face masks to be delivered to the domestic workers.
Many of their children go to underfunded government schools that cannot afford the switch to online classes, not to mention the pandemic began when schools in north India start the new academic year so they were unable to collect materials for the next year. Hence, these students suffered the most. Children from richer schools came together and donated their old books, worksheets, and stationery to their underprivileged counterparts. Some schools have started offering classes through WhatsApp and phone calls, and NGOs and local groups have coordinated this as well.
These are incredibly unusual and tough times, but it has also brought out the true nature of humans. Some of us may be selfish and greedy, hoarding resources and making insensitive demands, but we are together more than that. Communities across the world have shown that it is our natural instinct to be kind and generous, to help out someone in need when we see them. We are truly in this together and we will hopefully emerge out of this more united and kinder than ever.