The coronavirus pandemic is inspiring people worldwide to help their own communities.
Some of these local champions are alumni of U.S. Department of State programs, using their leadership and skills to assist those in need.
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) connects current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the United States. In London, IVLP Hidden No More alumna Jessica Wade (above) is volunteering to make a difference both at home and abroad.
Wade, a British physicist at Imperial College London, promotes and participates in the National Health Service’s Volunteer Responders, a platform that connects people with the most vulnerable members of their communities.
As a responder, Wade picks up medicines and food for people at risk, phones to check on the elderly who are under quarantine and helps arrange others’ transport to hospital appointments.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the IVLP has made me a better person in many different aspects of my life,” she said. “The Americans on the trip taught me the importance of giving back and volunteering.”
Faten Khalfallah is an alumna of TechWomen, a State Department program that supports female leaders in STEM fields from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. When Khalfallah heard about the spread of coronavirus in Italy, she knew it was only a matter of time before it spread to her country of Tunisia.
Khalfallah had earlier founded the First Skills Club, a nonprofit that teaches Tunisian youth about mobile apps, robotics, electronics and 3D printing. Using the group’s 3D printer, Khalfallah worked with her husband in consecutive 12-hour shifts to make facial shields and other protective equipment for local medical responders in the Sfax region.
When she started on March 24, her goal was to produce 1,000 shields. To date, she is nearing 2,000. “Now my challenge is to reach 5,000 face protective shields and 500 protective suits,” she says.
Elijah Addo is a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Center alumnus. The leadership centers offer training on entrepreneurship skills, civil society management and public policy that prime youth for success in their communities.
Addo is now trying to ensure that the most vulnerable people in communities have continuous access to meals as COVID-19 disrupts daily life.
Addo is the founder of Food for All Africa, an award-winning food-recovery company that provides food for over 5,000 people across Ghana. He launched the Food4All COVID-19 Community Emergency Intervention program to help those affected by the virus in his country.
In February, Addo’s company mapped out scenarios of the difficulty low-income and vulnerable Ghanaians would have accessing food and basic essentials under the threat of COVID-19. With support from the Global Food Banking network based in Chicago, the Ghana Food Movement and the Food and Beverage Association of Ghana, Addo was able to launch the program on March 22.
“My training experience and support from YALI and United States African Development Foundation gave me foundational support as a leader,” Addo said. “This became the cornerstone on which the impact we have created in the last five years has been built.”