Sijo Zachariah and his father began their garden at the beginning of the pandemic, when the stress of food security prompted them to take action. Little did they know that the garden would feed a community and change the course of Zachariah’s life. He and his father used seeds from food from the grocery store and used passed down knowledge from Zachariah’s grandfather and YouTube videos to cultivate his garden.
The garden now feeds 20 neighbors, who all struggled with food security during the pandemic. Zachariah and his father also allow others to use their land to plant crops and teach others how to farm. Zachariah even runs a YouTube channel to teach others how to grow food. The changes he made during the pandemic are even transferring to his future career. Before he studied aerospace engineering, but after making the garden and talking with other aspiring farmers, he is now studying to be a farmer. “All of these things used to spark curiosity in me and then I was getting quality time with my dad as well, so it was like a win-win,” Zachariah told The Associated Press.
The remote village of Vaganesh, Kosovo houses only one resident. Blagica Dicic is 92 years old and is failing in health. Her family moved away for various reasons and she is left by herself. But Fadil Rama, a resident of the neighboring village, travels twice a week to aid her in her failing health. For Dicic, it feels like she gained a new son.
The two live in villages with dividing histories. Dicic’s village is a Serb minority in the mountains of eastern Kosovo. When a 1998-1999 war waged in that region, tens of thousands of Albanians were killed by Serbian bombs. After the war, Kosovo claimed independence, but Serbia did not recognize it.
But Rama doesn’t see years of a cultural divide when caring for Dicic, instead he sees the nice lady who worked at the grocery store who’d always give him sweets as a kid. He told Dicic’s son he will “take care of her to the last minute of (her) life with all I have.”
“I will never leave her on her own,” Rama told The Associated Press.
Being away from home at college can be hard for both parents and students. Some University of Michigan parents worried their kids wouldn’t be taken care of during a pandemic when many students are contracting the virus. A group of parents, called the “aMAIZEing Blue Crew,” is providing care for students contracting illnesses by making care packages to send out to students in need.
Their efforts calm worried parents and comfort lonely students. Not only do they supply care packages for ill students, but also for birthdays and celebrations, just to make the students feel cared for. Sabrina Bramson’s mom felt worried after she tested positive for COVID-19. The volunteers picked up prescription drugs, food and tea to help care for Bramson; she felt comforted by their care. “They wanted to do whatever they could to make sure that I was comfortable,” she told the Associated Press. “I think that helped my mom calm down a lot because she knew that there was a group of moms that was making sure that I was taken care of.”
Hayley Orlinsky is so good at make rubber band bracelets, she can do it without looking. With this skill, Hayley set up a fundraiser to fund COVID-19 protective equipment for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She sells bracelets for $3 and charms for $5. The goal she set was $200, but now the funds are 100 times higher. So far the fundraiser raised over $20,000 from roughly 8,000 bracelets as estimated by her mother.
Hayley spent her first days in the hospital’s intensive care unit for breathing problems after birth. When she heard about their need for protective equipment, she wanted to help the doctors and the kids stay safe. Hayley even expanded her work to a summer camp she attends and everyone got on board to help. The spunky 7-year-old continues to make bracelets and plans to till no longer needed. “I want to do it until coronavirus is over,” she told the Associated Press. “It feels like I’m helping a lot of people.”