Global perspectives: Stories of solidarity during COVID-19
At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases.We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-19, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.
Imogen is a Journalist who has worked in humanitarian crises worldwide from Aceh to Haiti, and a regular contributor to The New Humanitarian, Guardian Development and Fifty Shades of Aid.
Shared on Saturday 21 March 2020 from London, UK (initially posted via Facebook)
Okay. So I’ve (largely) kept my peace so far on this whole pandemic thing, even though I’m working on it, because I’m not an epidemiologist/virologist/immunologist – and I’ve seen enough over the years (this is my sixth epidemic response) to know just how seriously dorky all of that is. When it comes to all that, UK Chief Med Officer Chris Whitty is Da Man and I got nothing. But now a lot of people are talking about going into self isolation, lockdown etc – and that IS something I know a bit about.
Like most aid workers, I’ve been stuck because of hurricanes, home bound due to political crises and once got stranded in a hotel suite in Haiti with a BBC Radio 4 team for four days with only one pair of knickers. I’m also a mental health first aider, and qualified therapist. So let’s just say I have a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way, which mostly boil down to how to take care of yourself and others.
And now I’m at home alone with a glass of wine and nothing better to do, so here goes:
DON’T PANIC – easier said than done but it doesn’t help. Deep breath everyone. We’re in this for the long haul so start with that assumption.
REACTIONS: everyone reacts differently to emergencies. Some people information-seek like mad, some get angry, some pick fights (in real life or on social media), some panic, some make a LOT of jokes, some deny the problem, some become terribly terribly active and efficient and want to help, some withdraw and fall off the radar. These are, fundamentally, all coping mechanisms for the same thing, which is at its root a deep sense of fear and loss of control. They’re all valid. Bottom line: we’ll need to be kind to each other, and that includes if someone is being aggressive or argumentative or overbearing. Experience suggest that we’ll all have a bit of a meltdown, and probably a cry, at some point. It’s just the way it goes.
Right now, we’re at that moment – the top of the roller coaster when we all look down. It’s horrible. But it doesn’t last.
RIGHT NOW IS ONE OF THE WORST BITS: the worst bit of crises is that moment when everyone collectively realises the severity of what we are facing and goes, oh shit. The moment at the top of the roller coaster when we all look down. It’s horrible. But it doesn’t last. In a little while everything will normalise and find a new rhythm. It’ll be a different life, and a (much) harder one for some, but it’ll have structure and routine. I’ve been in camps of disaster survivors a week after an earthquake – and there are always, already, communities reforming, hairdressers opening up, coffee shops. Humans are incredibly adaptable. Also, you are about to find out just how many amazing people you have around you. This is one of the best bits.
THERE WILL BE GOOD BITS. I always struggle to explain why I loved working in crises, but it basically boils down to the fact that when the chips are down, people are just incredible at looking after each other. You’ll never see community cohesion, support offered to strangers and kindness like that which emerges in crisis situations. Unimportant things melt away, at least for a while, and stark choices ask of us all: who ARE you? Love your friends and family and take care of them – they are what will get you through this, and you them. You’ll see people do amazing things, things you’ll never forget. And you’ll do amazing things too.
“When the chips are down, people are just incredible at looking after each other. You’ll never see community cohesion, support offered to strangers and kindness like that which emerges in crisis situations.”
EXERCISE: yoga is great when you’re stuck indoors and so are online classes, but if you’ve got an outdoor area or a bit of space indoors you really can’t beat skipping for getting your heart rate up in seconds (and making you feel better). If you don’t have a rope, washing line (esp the pastic kind) is an excellent substitute. Even a few minutes and you’ll feel loads better (if quite out of breath). Or put on some music and dance dance dance (you won’t even have to pretend no one can see you). That will lift your soul as well as your heart rate.
BOOZE: Hurray for a crisis in which wine stockpiling is an option. If you can only manage one bottle of spirits, go for vodka. I know, I know – I’m a gin girl myself, but it does tend to need tonic / ice / lemon which can be harder to source than liquor. Vodka can be sloshed into anything, drunk neat and at a, pinch warm. Plus in extremis, it’s a decent disinfectant (let’s hope you don’t need to go there). Having said that, if you insist on gin, Morrisons is doing a litre of bombay sapphire for £18 which is a stone cold steal. And stock up on tonic too.
STOCKPILING: Include some treats among the basic – trust me, you have NO IDEA how obsessed it is possible to become about nice eats. There have been times in my life when cheese was seriously the most exciting thing in the entire world. A diet of baked beans/pasta will keep you going, but it will get VERY dull and won’t help your mental health. Also, loo paper really doesn’t taste great. Easter eggs are half price, people! Chocolate, sweets, your comfort food of choice should all in there if that’s your bag, but my top tip is things that keep like cured meats, waxed cheese, tasty things in tins and smoked salmon. If you can afford it, do a bit of stockpiling at delis – they also need your business more than the big supermarkets. Delish, better than plain sugar and if it *really* gets bad, in a ‘middle class’ barter economy… the ultimate trump card (wait till you see what your mates will do for a packet of prosciutto when scarcity really bites).
“You have NO IDEA how obsessed you can become about nice eats. There have been times in my life when cheese was seriously the most exciting thing in the entire world.”
TRANSPORT: If you haven’t got a bike, think about getting one. If you have, get it serviced (did mine today). Definitely going to be the most reliable, safest and healthiest way of getting around in cities at least and when you do go out, and might be only even remotely safe way of socialising for a while. Plus panniers make shopping v convenient. If you have a car, brim it – fuel shortages aren’t on the cards right now but better safe than sorry.
ACTIVITIES: Cook. Garden. Knit, Draw. Do things with your hands (stop sniggering at the back) that don’t involve a screen. It’s basically meditation and and will relieve stress better than anything involving a screen.
MAKE USEFUL FRIENDS – with people like your local corner shop owner. Even if they are forced to close, they will have the connections to get you stuff. In Indonesia we agreed to turn a blind eye to a local trader plugging into our electrical supply, as long as he stocked my housemate’s favorite ciggies. They’re the ones who’ll keep you in prosciutto…
MEDICINES: If you get Covid you’re almost certainly going to have to home treat. Other people will be better placed to advise on this than me… – TAKE ADVICE FROM ACTUAL MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS – but you’ll need stuff like painkillers, things like lemsip and detergent to keep your bedding and clothes as disease free as possible. The advice is loads of fluids so things to make water taste nice (my choice is Ribena).
HELP: Ask for it if you need it – there are no prizes for suffering in silence. The Mutual Aid people are amazing. But there are also, sadly, going to be scammers taking advantage of this situation (already reported in Haringey). Ask for ID and an organiser contact, don’t give them money without a receipt and definitely not your bank card. And don’t put up with any nonsense: if anyone harasses you, report them.
LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA, and realise your own susceptibility to rumours. The mill goes mad at times like this. From hot water treatments to believing that the military are about to take over, the myths fly around and we’ll ALL fall for at least some of them at some point. It’s not stupidity, it’s human nature: scared people are really bad at evaluating data and especially risk. Clever people if anything are even more susceptible because they believe they are too smart to fall for misleading info. They are wrong. And don’t gloat if you catch them out – it’ll be you next.
LIMIT NEWS EXPOSURE: In addition to feeding the rumour mill, spending too much time watching the news will just create stress. Likewise, spend too much time online and sure as COVID is COVID you’ll find infinite rabbit holes and do very bad things to your mental health. Staying up all night reading is not going to make you an instant epidemiologist, just sleep deprived which makes everything worse. Ration it, trust reliable sources (like the NHS COVID Updates) and make like the BBC: double source everything you hear, ESPECIALLY if you really want to believe it is true. Turn it off, go outside and feel the spring sunshine.
EXPECT MORE CHANGE: we don’t know very much about this bug yet, and the scientists are learning more every day. The advice will alter on that basis. It’s not because our evil government is trying to kill us, it’s because they’re finding out new things all the time about how it affects different groups and what works. This happens in every epidemic: it’s weird to us but it’s normal-outbreakness (and completely fascinating if you’re a nerd, which all outbreak professionals are at heart).
SMALL GESTURES mean a HUGE amount. Flowers left on someone’s doorstep. A card saying I’m thinking of you. A phone call, a direct message. The last slice of aforementioned prosciutto. They take on a real disproportionate impact. I will never forget one particular person arriving in a particularly tight spot with a can of cold diet coke for me. Even tho we’re no longer friends that remains. Do the little things, they HUGELY count.
A light moment in Haiti.
HUMOUR is also uber important. So important that sometimes I see aid worker job descriptions that actually ask for this as a qualification (don’t ask me how they test that at interview): never forget the healing power of a good giggle. Especially good with children. Make yourself and the people around you laugh and you’ll all feel better (there’s actual science around this). Everything from watching comedy shows to sharing memes (the meme game on COVID-19 is impressively on point). If you lose your sense of humour, take that as a warning sign that you’re not doing OK.
UNDERLYING PROBLEMS don’t go away. One of the things about crises is that they seem like the only show in town. But people’s day to day problems don’t stop, they only get compounded. If you’re in an unhappy relationship, mentally ill, dealing with addiction or infertility, coping with a family death, or your identity has been stolen or you’re in a custody battle then these things don’t stop – they just get compounded, but everyone else tends to forget. So if this is one of your mates, keep taking care of them on that level too.
ONE DAY IT WILL BE OVER. The day will come when we meet up for drinks, and gather for dinners, and laugh and raise glasses and chat and hug and relax together again. Taste the sweetness of friendship and casual conversation and trivia and a life without this care. Every day we go through this is a day closer to that day. Maybe we’ll even be better people in a better world – one in which we can get a jab for COVID-19 and forget about it, and maybe even one in which the antivaxxers have finally shut the hell up. But if we’re not, this will have ended.
And the rest of our lives – blessed as they are, in this country (the UK) and continent where we do not face these kind of restrictions and far, FAR worse, every day of our lives, as so many do, and because we live in the age of modern medicine – will be epidemic free. We’ll back to the humdrum existence of ‘first world problems’, of complaining about nothing – but maybe perhaps with new knowledge of our neighbourhoods and new friends, because that’s who the strangers on our streets turned out to be in a pinch. I’m raising a glass tonight, to that today. One day soon, I know we’ll raise one together.
And in the meantime, keeping spare knickers in my handbag. Just in case.
“There are no cases identified but way before when people first heard about it, everyone who came through the airport had their temperatures tested.
“People who had temperatures were quarantined for two weeks. The government are telling people to travel as little as possible. People are worried and praying for the whole world. People are scared but they have faith in God.
“There is also faith in the government because they have had success in other health measures (reduction in malaria, lower child deaths).”
At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases.We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-1, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.
“As of 19 March, there are 28 confirmed cases in New Zealand. All cases are in people who have just come from overseas or a couple of cases have been immediate family members of these people.
“There is no ‘community transmission’ of the virus here yet, though it likely only a matter of time before that occurs. The plan is to try and ‘flatten the curve’ to reduce the impact on the health system to a level it can handle. All travellers arriving to NZ from overseas, with the exception of the few of the Pacific Islands where there are no cases yet, are required to self-isolate for two weeks.
“The plan is to try and ‘flatten the curve’ to reduce the impact on the health system”
“But, what if people don’t? The government is being quite hard line on this. Yesterday two tourists were actually arrested and I believe they will be deported as they arrived in the country and just intended to carry on their travels and had no plans for self-isolation.
“Everyone here is generally quite calm, but getting a bit worried about the prospect of everyone being in lockdown. There has been a run on supplies with some supermarkets experiencing shortages, however there were buying limits on some items (e.g. toilet paper, baby formula)
“If people are well, they are out and about, but a lot hand sanitiser is being used and with the limited contact, people are greeting each other with elbow bumps or the ‘east coast wave’. Here is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demonstrating the wave
“Everyone here is generally quite calm, but getting a bit worried about the prospect of everyone being in lockdown”
“At the moment I feel like everything is being handled well. If we can all rely on each other to think of others, I think we will be ok.
“My take on this is that when people start to think purely of themselves, that’s when things turn to pot.”
Would you like to share your story of the situation/ challenges facing your country?
We are asking anyone willing to share to answer the following questions and send to – email@example.com
At the WCIA, we understand that the outbreak of COVID-19 is difficult for so many people across the world. In uncertain times like these, it is heartwarming to see communities uniting in solidarity, and even song in some cases. We are reaching out to people worldwide to share global perspectives on COVID-1, recognising the global nature of the issue, and some of the similarities and differences of experiences in different countries. We want to identify and share the positive stories emerging from the situation as a source of inspiration for people in these challenging times.
Jim Blythe is from the UK, but is currently staying in Andalusia, Spain until it is safe to return.
“I am still locked down in Andalusia, sunny today but a bit of a breeze so not sunbathing weather but better than the UK, which helps. However, that’s not what I really wanted to say.
“People here are staying very calm, and just getting on with whatever they can do. My neighbour Miguel is continuing to tunnel through the rock so they can convert their stable to a living room, I hope he doesn’t undermine the foundations. Lute and Gines continue going out to their fields. The fishmonger still comes round in his van (food deliveries are allowed). The village Tannoy system played its lively tune yesterday for an announcement from the Town Hall, but it was only wishing everybody good luck on the lockdown, try to be patient.
“People here are staying very calm, and just getting on with whatever they can do”
“I baked some bread for my neighbours Gines and Moni, and also for our elderly neighbour Aurelia. They brought me some fresh eggs from their chickens, and some lettuce and home-made goats cheese. And a bottle of wine, again home-made (Gines owes me, I went harvesting the grapes with him last year, and Sue trod them).
“We’re allowed to go to the shop, so I went today and got a few bits and pieces and some whisky (hurrah, I was running low). No panic buying at all. The staff in our little village shop were wearing gloves and face masks, and they were only allowing six people in at a time. The atmosphere was a bit serious – usually it’s all gossip in there, but not today, so I cracked a couple of jokes with the young lady on the till which broke the tension a bit. I asked Aurelia if she needed anything, but she was fine – Moni has been doing some shopping for her.
“Not normal, but also not at all panicky. Blitz spirit”
“On the way back I had a brief chat with another neighbour (Carmen) who was standing in her doorway getting a bit of fresh air. Otherwise the village is dead – no cars, no old blokes hanging around for the bar to open, nobody on the plaza, nobody standing around yakking. So not normal, but also not at all panicky. Blitz spirit.”
We are following Welsh Government and official Public Health Wales guidelines and as the Government is now recommending non-essential contact; the team have decided to work from home.
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Home - Women's Petition
Story of the Petition
The 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, coordinated by the Welsh League of Nations Union, was signed by 390,296 women in a call after WW1 for America to join and lead the League of Nations. Presented by Annie Hughes Griffiths (holding Memorial) to US President Calvin Coolidge, alongside the National League of Women’s Voters representing 20 million American women.
For International Women’s Day, March 8 #IWD2020 – under the global theme #EachforEqual – WCIA is remembering the achievements of some of Wales’ most remarkable peacemakers… a whole generation of Welsh women who, after WW1, took action for global peace and equality through the 1923 Welsh Women’s Peace Petition to America. Signed by 390,296 women Wales-wide in an extraordinary door to door campaign, ‘a petition 7 miles long’ (according to the press of the time) remains in a great oak chest at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington to this day. On Monday 9 March, the Welsh part of the Peace Petition will be publicly displayed at the Senedd for the final WW100 ‘Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers’ event.
In particular, WCIA are celebrating the contribution of inspiring Welsh Internationalist Annie-Jane Hughes Griffiths – known to history until recently as ‘Mrs Peter Hughes Griffiths’ – who led a delegation of Welsh women to America in Feb-March 1924 to present the Petition to President of the United States Calvin Coolidge. Annie wrote a diary of their 2 month ‘Peace Tour’ of the US, which was recently rediscovered in the archives of the National Library of Wales.
Annie’s Diary offers an unprecedented and rich first hand account of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, in the pen and the ‘voice’ of the 1920s women who made history, and has been made available through WCIA and the National Library of Wales both as a digitised resource and as a transcript by volunteers (for further research and development), along with press cuttings from the time gathered by the Welsh League of Nations Union.
Women's Peace Petition Resources Page
Download / Print Booklet 'Inspired by Annie'
Moroccan leather binding of the Memorial on display in the Temple of Peace Archives
Over the course of 2014-19, the story of the Petition has been gradually uncovered by volunteers, researchers and community groups; and for #IWD2020, WCIA have drawn together a dedicated webpage , with research and resource updates from the last 12 months including:
WCIA ‘Book Club’ Volunteers, Summer 2019
A short film has been produced by Tracy Pallant and Amy Peckham of Valley & Vale Community Arts, capturing the experience of WCIA’s ‘Book Club’ volunteers in transcribing and unveiling Annie’s Diary from her 1924 trip to America. This opened the doors to many new insights and areas of research – including Doctoral Research on the Welsh League of Nations Union by Swansea University, and cross-curricular learning resources and projects by Alaw Primary School in the Rhondda – and so the story continues to evolve.
The Petition in Wales was organised by the Welsh League of Nations Union – forerunners of today’s Welsh Centre for International Affairs – for whom Wales’ Temple of Peace and Health was dedicated in 1938. With WW2, the Petition itself became somewhat forgotten – a ‘hidden history‘ – until the beautiful binding of the Memorial was ‘found in plain sight’ in the Temple Archives in 2014, when scoping ideas for the WW100 Wales for Peace project.
The first International Women’s Day occurred in 1911, supported by over one million people; IWD has been formally celebrated by the United Nations since 1975, and adopted as a UN Day since 1977. Explore the history behind International Women’s Day here.
“IWD is about celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness and taking action for equality. The IWD 2020 campaign theme is drawn from a notion of ‘Collective Individualism.’ We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society. Collectively, we can make change happen.
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. A gender equal world can be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious – so what’s not great about that?” International Women’s Day website
In Wales, through the Women’s Equality Network, #IWD2020 events are being coordinated nationwide.
To mark IWD2020, WCIA will be displaying the Women’s Peace Petition at the Senedd for the final conference and evening reception for the WW100 ‘Cymru’n Cofio / Wales Remembers’ programme on Monday 9 March.
For IWD 2019, WCIA supported Gwynedd Museums and Heddwch Nain Mamgu to display our Women War and Peace Exhibition in Storiel, Bangor over Feb-April 2019. The exhibition has also travelled to Swansea, Criccieth, Croesor, and the Senedd in Cardiff over 2017-19. When not on loan to local venues, the Women War & Peace exhibition – produced by WCIA with photojournalist Lee Stow – can be viewed in Wales’ Temple of Peace, or as part of WCIA’s regular ‘Temple Tours and Open Doors‘ days. These also spotlight WCIA’s wider work on Women Peacemakers, such as Minnie James and the Mothers of Peace (the ‘war bereaved mothers of Wales and the world, who opened Wales’ Temple of Peace in 1938); and the anti-nuclear Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp of the 1980s-90s.
Whilst World War Two may have eclipsed the ambitions of the Welsh Women’s Peace Petition, the post-WW2 United Nations was the realisation of so much the interwar generation of women peacemakers had campaigned for. Over 2020-24, WCIA will be marking UN75, the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations, by exploring the contributions of Welsh men and women to post-WW2 internationalism and human rights, and to anti-nuclear campaigning.
Recently unearthed Press Cuttings of the ‘sendoff at Euston’ of the Welsh delegation to America, Feb 1924.
Alongside this, it is the ambition of WCIA to celebrate the forthcoming Centenary of the Petition in 2023-24 through drawing the many and varied contributions of community groups Wales-wide together; alongside working with others, including the Smithsonian, to digitise and / or reunite the chest of signatories from America, with the Memorial Declaration and archives in Wales – and to share this remarkable story of women’s empowerment and leadership in international affairs with Wales and the world.
Visit Heddwch.Cymru or email WalesforPeace@wcia.org.uk if you would be interested in getting involved either as a WCIA supporter, community partner organisation, or archives researcher / volunteer writer.