Young people at the heart of a global challenge like COVID-19

5th April 2020

The emergence of the global challenge of COVID-19 has provided a stark reminder of how and why it is needed for young people to be at the heart of global development.

At Raleigh it was interesting to remark the value of our work in WASH and sustainable agri-based livelihoods in relation to the challenge posed by COVID-19. In Nepal and in other Raleigh countries, Raleigh action learners deploy to build water supply and to enhance the capacity of communities to manage sanitation and hygiene. Every cycle, there is very good feedback from our partner communities on the value posed by school wash programs and hand-washing, hygiene and menstrual health capacity building. The value of this WASH work becomes even more pronounced during this current crisis as it has provided a dramatic reminder, globally – in developed and developing countries alike on the importance of sanitation, hygiene and hand-washing. Hand-washing in particular is in focus in the global zeitgeist at the moment and it is revealed that the importance and awareness of this fundamental skill cannot be taken for granted anywhere in the world.

Expedition Volunteers giving a hand-washing session in local school in Pathiswara, Gorkha.
Picture by Alex Wolynski

Raleigh action learners and alumni are ideally placed to be hygiene and WASH advocates in the countries and communities at this time. Raleigh action learners and alumni, no matter where they, can promote the importance and awareness of things like hygiene and hand-washing, availing themselves of the communication, cross-cultural working and teamwork skills they learn while at Raleigh. Throw in that Raleigh young people are adept users of technology and there is a clear recipe for Raleigh young people to make significant change in protecting communities from further spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Similarly, the work we do in sustainable livelihoods is important as an ensuring mechanism that communities have economic resilience and safeguarding of their nutrition sources at crisis times such as these where they experience higher than usual vulnerability. What COVID-19 has revealed is how precarious the global economies are and how disrupted incomes and even food sources can become in a time of global crisis. In Nepal this translates that the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables has sharply declined in the last three days and the price of this produce in the marketplaces has over tripled in price. This crisis has served as a reminder in Nepal the importance for a resilient domestic agriculture industry. Globally, it puts focus on issues of sustainability, supply and the notion of working.  Raleigh alumni and action learners learn about different modalities of working and as young people they are uniquely placed, using skills they learned at Raleigh, to imagine and create different kinds of working and income generation which are more resilient and sustainable to global crisis.

ICS livelihood volunteers setting up a poly-tunnel

Raleigh has a uniqueness in the international development sector in that we simultaneously occupy the space of community development and youth leadership development. There is a significant nexus and niche area that Raleigh works in that we do not separate development impacts of infrastructure from ephemeral pursuits around the personal and professional development of young people. As much as Raleigh builds tap stands and poly-tunnels we also encourage young people to explore questions of courage, resilience, cross-cultural and interpersonal communication and leadership. We understand at Raleigh the notion of habituating lifelong learners and providing platforms through which young people can develop radical curiosity, respect for others and the courage to do change-work. One of the most significant things which COVID-19 has provided as a challenge is how it has revealed some predisposition in our global, political structures to engage in divisive rhetoric and self-interest. Additionally, challenges posed by social distancing and lock-downs necessarily lead to isolation and even fear. COVID-19 has revealed how, despite a digitally connected world, we as a human civilization are fragile and vulnerable. It is easy for us as global people to bunker down in this crisis and give in to fear, uncertainty and doubt and to turn inward or turn on each other.

Raleigh young people are by nature courageous – it is a brave thing to leave the comfort of home and spend time in vulnerable rural communities. This courage is honed and focused throughout a Raleigh cycle and ideas of global solidarity and citizenship are given space to grow and be explored in the hearts and minds our action learners. Raleigh action learners and alumni are uniquely placed to enter the global challenge posed by COVID-19 with radical courage, compassion and energy to support the suffering and change the rhetoric of fear. They are placed and poised to show us as a human civilization, an alternative to hopelessness, isolation and terror. They can transform uncertainty to opportunity and helplessness into change for the better and for good.

This challenge has shown us the vulnerability and interconnectedness of our world. Young people will show us the way forward to resilience and recovery.

 

Dr. Brent Downes, Country Director, Nepal

 


 

Raleigh Nepal are supporting communities across Nepal to gain better access to water and sanitation for everyone. For more information on our programmes in Nepal check out our Facebook and Instagram. To find out how you can volunteer with us, please click here

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