CEBU, Philippines– At the onset of the Philippines’ coronavirus outbreak, a group of young leaders sought to engage the youth in strengthening Cebu’s health landscape.
Founded in June 2019, a group of youth volunteers and student leaders from Cebu named Visayan Youth Matters (VYM) rose to the challenge of staging an education campaign in a bid to raise awareness of public health practices in Visayas.
“We want to be inclusive and to build healthier communities. In this time of pandemic, we want to create inclusive public health engagements – to cater to those people whose needs are unaccounted for,” said VYM founder Cris Bael.
With the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country, many concerns such as the lack of access to health information have been raised by health professionals and experts.
False information about the coronavirus outbreak has become rampant on social media as well, making people more confused about what’s going on. (READ: Digital disinformation is as potent as a virus during a pandemic)
The VYM made it their mission to help local communities better understand the current health crisis by translating important information to local languages, especially after the outbreak hit close to home.
Cebu City has recently overtaken Quezon City after it recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country.
“All government and non-government initiatives, all their engagements were providing PPE (personal protective equipment) and basic necessities. However, we want to make information more available, especially for those who don’t have access to information,” Bael added.
As early as March 12, the founders of VYM led the EdukAKSYON Kontra COVID-19 educational campaign in Cebu which paired the distribution of relief goods with brochures in the hopes of better containing the outbreak. (READ: While classes are on hold, students find ways to help affected communities)
The brochure written in Cebuano contains a concise description of COVID-19, and how it is transmitted. It also lists proper physical distancing and sanitation guidelines, locations of checkpoints in different municipalities, COVID-19 emergency hotlines and even myths surrounding the fast-spreading virus.
Building a healthier landscape together
VYM has also collaborated with multiple organizations and businesses to bring these brochures to more people and raise awareness about how individuals can keep themselves safe from the coronavirus.
In Cebu, VYM worked with local youth organizations and Sangguniang Kabataan.
With the help of Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay San Antonio, they were able to distribute EdukAKSYON Kontra COVID-19 brochures to approximately 200 households and 350 soaps to residents.
Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Tisa also distributed alcohol together with the laymanized brochure to those manning checkpoints in Sitio Lower and Upper Kadasig Phase 3, Sidlakan, Lapina Compound and Kalomboyan.
Just recently, Sangguniang Kabataan Brgy. Bakilid Mandaue helped provide 250 brochures to single parents, persons with disabilities, senior citizens, and members of the LGBTQ+ community in the area.
VYM has partnered with Angel’s Pharmacy and Generika Drugstore as well to further the dissemination of public health information to consumers and residents of Cebu City and Mandaue City, respectively.
By March 21, the educational campaign expanded its reach to Eastern and Western Visayas with the combined effort of the Philippine Youth Development Network (PYDN), Youth for Livable Communities, along with other youth-led organizations who helped distribute the EdukAKSYON Kontra COVID-19 brochures.
To make the information easy to understand, the brochure was translated and made available in Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Kiniray-a and Waray languages.
Since VYM started in March, their educational brochures have reached over 2,000 households in Central and Eastern Visayas through relief distribution initiatives by both government and non-governmental organizations.
Initiatives aimed for the youth
Aside from EdukAKSYON Kontra COVID-19, Visayan Youth Matters said there are other initiatives that the youth can join to help the community during this crisis.
Young House Heroes Initiative (YHHI) is calling for proposals from youth organizations and Sangguniang Kabataan in the Visayas that are interested in staging their own campaigns. Those qualified could receive up to P10,000 to implement a youth-led localized campaign related to holistic well-being of children and youth amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Proposals could range from online engagements that focus on responding to mental health needs of the youth to offline engagements such as art contests for the youth that display support for frontliners.
YHHI hopes that these education campaigns will help address concerns regarding children’s well-being and promote awareness of available psychological services.
Individuals who wish to join YHHI need only to contact PYDN through their official Facebook page. Those interested in submitting their proposals for the P10,000-grant can download the guidelines and application form here.
For VYM, the coronavirus pandemic is a call to action for the future of the next generation.
“Instead of [being apathetic] or just staying at home and not doing anything about the situation, we must extend our hands to our people. This pandemic does not just show the fragility of the health system but also the social inequality present right now,” said Bael.
“Staying at home is not a burden for us to help other people but a challenge to think more innovatively in how we can help them,” he added.