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Meeting the Challenge of the Pandemic with a Focus on Children

The year 2020 started with an unexpected set of challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we knew it. On the one hand, it gave some a chance to slow down for some much-needed reflection.

We all certainly got to experience just how fragile our highly developed civilization is, and how totally and intrinsically interconnected our lives are. On the other hand, it also brought great worry, uncertainty and instability, as the disease and its related challenges highlighted and exacerbated the inequalities and injustices already present in our societies.

"This is the time when we need to encourage a sense of solidarity as one human community and act together to overcome this threat to humankind with empathy and care for the vulnerable people including children.”
Rev. Keishi Miyamoto
President of Arigatou International, Convener, Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC)

Although children appear thus far to be less intensely affected by the virus itself, they are in fact among the most vulnerable to the overall impact of the pandemic.

As countless schools closed down, millions of children were left without proper access to education.

The increase in the levels of stress within families facing multiple crises at once — health, employment, finances, parenting, education — also left children more vulnerable than ever to domestic violence and neglect, and has exposed many children to even more unhealthy levels of screen-time than before. As Rev. Miyamoto said, “We must keep in mind that children are very vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic, and we need to listen to their voices and stand by them.”

To help protect and empower children in this unprecedented crisis, Arigatou International launched a global campaign titled “Faith in Action for Children.” The campaign calls on religious leaders and communities to increase their actions in response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, and provides multiple opportunities and rich resources for educators, parents and caregivers, and children and youth to support their well-being during and after the pandemic. The campaign — which offers not only these free online resources but also a series of webinars, online interfaith prayers, and more — builds on the important role that faith plays in emergencies to strengthen resilience, and highlights the crucial contributions of religious leaders to positively influence their communities.

Within the framework of the campaign, Arigatou International – Geneva focused its efforts on the role of education to support children during and after the pandemic and the critical role that ethics education plays in fostering the socio-emotional and spiritual well-being of children.

As a part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arigatou International – Geneva produced Learning to Live Together: An Activity Booklet for Children during the Covid-19 Pandemic.

This new resource is filled with activities for families with children ages 4 to 18. Its main aims are to help strengthen family bonds, nurture children’s spirituality, and provide learning opportunities for children to reflect on ethical challenges, develop their imagination and critical thinking, and reflect on concrete ways they can connect with one another while still practicing safe physical distancing.

From the early stages of the pandemic, Arigatou International – Geneva mobilized its Learning to Live Together trainers and facilitators to join the Faith in Action campaign. The trainers got to share their actions to support children, but also their concerns and the challenges they faced. They developed an action plan to respond to the more pressing needs brought on by this unprecedented health crisis from the ethics education perspective and committed to keep working for the well-being of children and youth.

"During these uncertain times, our trainers and facilitators all around the world are actively engaged locally and joining global efforts to support children, particularly the ones living in the most vulnerable contexts. In times of physical distancing, the moral imperative to do right by children has been strengthened by the solidarity, commitment and joint efforts of our pool of trainers and facilitators that joined our campaign and are working tirelessly to protect children against violence and make sure their voices are heard. Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all of them.”
Vera Leal
Senior Program Officer on Ethics Education, Arigatou International – Geneva
In addition to the support offered to teachers, parents and caregivers, focus was also given to nurturing children’s spirituality and capacity for ethical reflections through their empowerment.

It is often thought that protecting children is a “top-down” action adults do for children. It is too often forgotten that children are individuals in their own right, and that their empowerment is a sine qua non for their protection, as they become aware of their rights and get equipped to speak up and respond in positive ways.

Throughout the campaign, Arigatou International has been listening to the voices of children and youth, amplifying them in videos at its website, and creating spaces for them to reflect, share how they feel, reach out to other children and youth, and speak about their experiences during this difficult time.

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