By: Katherine D., Concordia Applied Journalism
It’s a cold, early February day in Shanghai. Outside, the streets are empty and filled with eerie silence as everyone waits anxiously for the latest statistics on the Coronavirus attack. With most of China on lockdown, recent events were surely enough to rattle many living in Shanghai, a city with one of the highest number of infections. Yet Concordia high school student, Iffany Z., in her usual cheery countenance, offers another view. “I wish this never happened,” she begins, “but it has offered me an opportunity to grow.”
The question of how and why the virus happened, as well as how to eradicate it, has occupied China and many around the world in the few months since the first patient was discovered in Wuhan. That single case quickly spread to other parts of the country, bringing back painful memories of the SARS outbreak in 2003 and has drowned society in fear and anxiety.
Luckily, Concordia has been fast to react, putting in place Cyberschool as the Chinese government ordered the closure of all schools until the beginning of March. But it’s a remedy, not a solution, to students’ longing for their normal lives and social interaction.
“I'm really thankful that teachers are putting in an effort [for cyberschool], but it's an inefficient way to learn when I'm not being able to interact with people”, Iffany explains. “I've only seen my family and haven't seen anyone else for over a week. I miss talking to my teachers and being able to go outside or even go to practice because I've just been at home.”
However, despite the difficulties and added anxiety, this extended time at home has given Iffany and her friends an opportunity to start Masks for Wuhan, a personal fundraising project that seeks to donate masks and medical suits for hospitals in Wuhan. “There's nothing we can do to stop it [the virus], so what can we do to help it? Or how can we alleviate it?" These are questions that had first inspired Iffany to get together with friends online and jumpstart the project. Since then, the organization has been able to reach its original 2-week goal of raising 21000 RMB in the first three hours, making a positive impact on doctors and group members alike.
"It [Masks for Wuhan] gave me an opportunity for me to work with people who think the same and are passionate about helping,” Iffany says. “And this made me realize how to start an organization, how to work with others, how to reach out to people, and how to develop empathy."
As Masks for Wuhan continues to make meaningful change, Evelyn S., another Concordia student, has also been able to turn the virus’s curse into a blessing.
“Especially since college app season is over, it [staying at home] has given me some time to refocus on my hobbies,” Evelyn explains. “I’ve been picking up stuff that I stopped doing last semester, such as piano and studying Swedish.”
A typical day for Evelyn now involves going to Cyberschool, studying Swedish through online courses, walking her dog, exercising, playing the piano, and drawing. In the coming weeks, this list may soon extend to include cooking, she adds with a smile.
In particular, Evelyn has been drawing a cartoon called Chasing Little Lights, which is currently being published on Tapas. Interestingly, when she first started it a few years ago, she set her characters in a world ravaged by a virus. But thankfully for curious readers, she has hinted that she would make a happy ending.
With Evelyn and Iffany both an example and reflection of the passionate Concordia community, inspiring more people to brush past challenges to grow and serve others, we can hope for the same ending for China and the world.