In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, we all have been motivated to find creative solutions to not only do our work but to ensure that the work has a lasting impact beyond the pandemic. The South-African organisation Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) , amongst others engaged in work with young people and youth exchange, is taking up the challenge by setting up a response team led by young people themselves. The team will offer help to communities and youth enabling them to better respond to the health and socio-economic burden of the global pandemic.
The youth response team will have the following responsibilities:
- Coordinate information and awareness campaigns to youth
- Provide online training for youth who are working on the front line in their communities
- Provide “hotline support” to youth
- Be a platform or think tank for new projects/ideas in view of COVID 19 and or other crises
- Liaise with government on corona virus
Placing young people at the forefront of this response team will not only ensure a transfer of skills but also encourage the promotion of youth change makers within the region. To ensure this, WESSA is working closely with the South African Alumni Network (SAAN) and has also encouraged collaborations with existing regional, national and continental structures, for example the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Youth Forum and the African Union Youth Division.
Furthermore, SAAN has used the pandemic as an opportunity to innovatively engage and support young people. It has been very active lately with providing mental health support for its members during the pandemic and is offering series of online seminars focusing on how young people can leverage COVID 19 and find innovative solutions despite the challenges. SAAN is also providing first hand and factual information and advice to exchange participants and alumni whose volunteering engagements and exchange journeys have been jeopardized and altered by the pandemic.
As such, they have thus become an example of an active youth-led organization in line with the youth and volunteer work of the African Union.
The two examples illustrate how organisations continue, despite the uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to the youth exchange world, to encourage meaningful and sustainable youth actions and volunteering during the pandemic.