By Jehad Oumer (YES 2016–2017, Libya, hosted by AFS in Washington, D.C.)
My experience in the YES program showed me that I am a part of something much larger than myself, my community, or my country. Our interconnectedness has never been as evident as it has been with the spread of a virus across borders that changed the world as we know it, and how we interact with each other.
Despite the physical distance, our proximity via social media platforms has closed this gap. COVID-19 has shown us the importance of solidarity, taking care of each other, being kind, and helping those in need. Many people have taken the initiative whether individually or through collective efforts to contribute within their local communities. I am going to use this opportunity to talk about my small contribution to my continent, Africa.
At the beginning of April 2020, I took an essential part of the #DontGoViral Campaign by i4Policy in partnership with UNESCO. Through the campaign, we are working to crowdsource creative content from across the African continent to promote accurate information and prevention tips about COVID-19. Since April, the campaign received over 500 content contributions from African communities in different languages through the platform.
I have played a supporting role in this initiative as the technical lead of the DontGoViral.wiki. I manage the website and upload content curated by the team. I also supported the translation of the website into Arabic. #DontGoViral became a popular tag for COVID-19 related creative content, and artists across the continent assigned their COVID-19 related artwork to the hashtag. The campaign has exceeded 40 million hits on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with more than 500 submissions from over 30 countries in Africa.
Working on this initiative with other creative young talents has been empowering in many ways and together we were able to produce interactive, engaging, and informative content that appeals to youth. One special piece of art that made an impact on me through the #DontGoViral community was when we co-created a beautiful spoken word version of the Open Letter by i4Policy’s Africa Innovation Policy Task Force from 20 different African countries that calls for unity and collective action to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being a part of this collective effort to fight widespread misinformation about COVID-19 has been rewarding to me personally, as I have seen the proliferation of inaccurate information on virtual platforms which holds true for other countries across the continent.
I extend the invitation for you to join this effort and to amplify the reach of this initiative by visiting the links shared in this story!