By Sally Bisharat, Communications Specialist

There is no aspect in life that COVID-19 has not affected. Countries around the world have announced strict measures, such as lockdown, to contain the pandemic at the local level. In Jordan, for example, the government closed all public and private institutions including schools, universities, public parks, and entertainment centres as part of its efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

What seemed like a dark period to many people around the world, confined in their homes filled with fear and anxiety from the unknown, has been the exact opposite to eleven-year-old Hala Srour, a Syrian refugee living in Balqaa, Jordan.

With extra free time on her hands during quarantine, Hala dedicated each day to learning a new skill through the online educational messages and content she received through her participation with the Maharati Programme (“My Skills” Programme). The programme, implemented by the Jordanian Ministry of Youth in partnership with Generations For Peace and with support from UNICEF, seeks to promote lasting positive behaviour-change through a sustained series of activities. “The practice-focused videos taught me essential skills that helped me invest my time in quarantine and improve my talent in drawing,” she shares.

Moreover, since Hala believes that art is a unique tool to spread awareness, peace, and love – something that is needed now more than ever – she helped raise awareness about the dangers of the coronavirus during lockdown to her family and friends through her creative paintings. “Even though the pandemic forced us to stay home, I tried to turn this situation into an opportunity to explore my hidden potential which enabled me to express my thoughts, feelings, and opinions through art to help protect my community,” she adds.

Hala surrounded by her supportive family

Reflecting on her daughter’s growth, Hala’s mother shares, “Hala has shown great intellectual maturity over the past three months. Her life skills have developed tremendously, which is reflected in the way she handles difficult situations with a lot of rationality and self-control. She is able to turn negative situations into positives ones!”

In April 2020, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, , Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake, hosted a virtual event which discussed the need to channel young people’s efforts and knowledge around the world in a creative and solution-oriented manner in order to utilise their potential in times of crisis. “There is no time like now for young people to do what they do best: self organise, self-mobilise, and come together no-bars-held […] Come together in global solidarity,” she says. In addition, she shared five pointers on what youth can do to manage the pandemic locally, including following WHO guidelines to combat the virus, spreading awareness online and offline, and volunteering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious economic and social repercussions around the world, so as the global fight against this virus continues, young people like Hala demonstrate how youth are becoming leaders in their communities and countries by spreading positivity and awareness during these hard times. Their efforts emphasise the importance of youth engagement at the local level to achieve positive global change.