Whisperings of a mysterious illness started making headlines in late December of 2019. In mid-January we started to hear about how cases of the illness, now known as the novel coronavirus, were picking up. Come February, the virus had spread to 18 countries and was showing no signs of stopping.
The date we are all most familiar with, however, is March 11, 2020: the day that the United States, and much of the world, shut down to curb the spread of the virus.
A lot can be said about how this process was handled. Rehashing how poor management on protocols left the entire country in a state more similar to the wild west than a cohesive nation is like screaming into a void. After a year of facing how the government failed its people, we can instead look to those who lifted others during such a difficult time.
For a while, brightening the lives of others was very much restricted to what could be done from the safety of one’s home. Despite the financial hardships the average person was forced to endure due to workplace closures, charitable giving actually rose in 2020. One might think that, in times as uncertain as they were, one would want to keep their funds close to their chest, but there is a driving factor many didn’t consider: human suffering.
Most of us alive today had not seen human suffering on such a grand scale before. We had never been exposed to millions of people across the globe experiencing tragedies all at once. By nature, we are sympathetic creatures. As a result, people everywhere were spurred into action.
Research programs, food banks, shelters, hospitals, and more received donations on scales many had never seen the likes of. Many even reached out of their own communities to help those who needed it more in another state or country. Celebrities used their platforms to boost charities and causes. Rhianna donated five million dollars to Feeding America, World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, and more. Dolly Parton gave one million to research at Vanderbilt University.
My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) April 1, 2020
Kazi Mtaani at work. Credit: People Daily.
When people lost their jobs due to business closures, some programs were put in place to catch them. In Kenya, The National Hygiene Program (known as Kazi Mtaani) was developed to support low-income workers who could not afford a shutdown. The program gave those who suddenly found themselves jobless an option to bring in money. The work offered included drainage cleaning, garbage collection, fumigation, and disinfection, jobs that had never been more important.
In Pakistan, health care was made more accessible with Doctory. Maliha Khalid and her team streamlined this triage network that allows patients to call and speak to a primary care physician in minutes. The service keeps more Pakistani people at home and allows for more space within hospitals, but also allows others to see a physician who otherwise might not have been able to. 63% of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas, making trips to hospitals long and expensive. Doctory saves these people time, money, and peace of mind during a point when all three of these things are so important.
Slowly, but surely, people started to get creative in their mission to help provide those in need the financial or emotional assistance they need to get through their hardships.
Melina Taprantzi, owner of Wise Greece, is one of those people who moved swiftly to ensure those who needed food would not go without. On top of launching a delivery service for the elderly and vulnerable populations, partnering with several multinational companies has allowed Taprantzi to contribute 6 tons for food and supplies to those in need.
“Every day I have moments when I want to quit,” Taprantzi says. “But then a food producer sends you a thank you note, or you see homeless people receiving the food distributions. Then I remember why I’m doing this work.”
Melina Taprantzi, owner of Wise Greece. Credit: Living Postcard.
Ramu Dosapati at his Rice ATM. Credit: The Indian Express
Thousands of miles away, a man in India had a similar idea inspired by the kindness of another. After watching a woman spend almost half of her salary on food for those in need, Ramu Dosapati decided he could do more to help. Dosapati cashed the entirety of his retirement fund and even put buying a new family home on hold to create his “Rice ATM.” The 24/7 service provides rice and other necessities to those who otherwise could not afford it. For those who travelled great distances for support, the Rice ATM is a Godsend.
Some people took a quirkier approach to boost the spirits of others. Cara Rindell in Raleigh, North Carolina founded the “The Sisterhood of Travelling Wine,” the group that brings wine lovers together to spread cheer in their area. These “wine fairies,” as they call themselves, put together gift baskets of wine, chocolate, and other goodies, don sparkly wings and tutus, and deliver these gifts to neighbors.
“It’s all about bringing others happiness and making new relationships,” Rindell says. “It starts off as a random act of kindness to a stranger and becomes a friendship with the neighbor you didn’t know you had.”
Across the world, humanity has found a way to persevere. Though we are forced to face how divisive our world is every day thanks to the news, the pandemic should prove something to many: tragedy brings out the kindness in people. In a world fraught by disease and economic crises, these pockets of kindness were, and are, a light in the dark.
Wine Fairies in action. Credit: SWNS.
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