We have another entry for the “Lockdown Diaries” blog series! The world has been hard hit by the Corona virus (COVID 19) in an unprecedented way so there is no better time to launch these guest bloggers to get an in-depth look at how young people from various corners of the East and Southern African region are handling quarantine, self isolation, social distancing and other preventative measures. You will follow their experiences through their eyes as young people – their thoughts, feelings, highs and lows, and reflections.

Stay tuned for more stories!

Written by Kelvin Kinuthia W. Kenya

What does the future hold? That’s a simple question that lingers in every young person’s mind. A question that acts as a drive in their day to day lives as they accomplish their ambitions. That being said, it is noteworthy that the hope for a better future is key to the productivity of the population. As simple as sounds  the question, ‘what does the future hold?’ the mystery behind it makes things more complicated. Especially during this COVID 19 pandemic period as it eats up into the mental health of all persons globally. The ramifications as we’ve witnessed in my community  witnessed are an increase in the rates of depression and anxiety cases. The worst case scenarios being a number of suicides and Gender Based Violence. The vulnerable cohort has been adversely affected, more so the disabled as ways to get basic needs and reliable information on COVID 19 keep shrinking. A heartbreaking increase in the number of teenage pregnancies has also been reported. When all this is fired up by the jobs lost, poverty and dreams lost the hope for a better future seems like a fairy tale.

With all these challenges facing my community, my schedule has been a beehive of activities aimed at reviving the much needed hope that appears to be lost. A description of my single day pretty much summarizes my life during this pandemic. As a trending saying goes, ‘every day is every day.’ Weird to say, but my everyday schedule is dubbed #MentalHealthCheckList.

My day starts at 5 AM. I am a member of the 5 AM club and have over the time managed to influence a number of young people from our estate to join. Our first hour of the day is composed of vigorous exercises and meditation. We do this together to act as each other’s accountability partner. Of course we observe the guidelines provided to prevent COVID 19 infection. We wash our hands, maintain distance and put on our masks. We take this time also to share our experiences during this pandemic. The 5 Am club has grown to be a well-functioning support group.

The remaining part of my morning is personal, to relax and carry out some chores. This is the time I use to exploit my God given talent to create content that creates awareness, educates and entertains on various life aspects especially mental health and COVID 19. The content is purposed to be posted on my social media platforms where I’ve built a brand as an actor, Viner , comedian and graphic designer. This therefore involves rigorous script writing, filming, creation of posters and video editing.

The actual sensitization happens in the afternoon as I post content on my social media platforms (inclusive of FB, Youtube, Instagram, TikTok and twitter. I then engage in the conversations being carried out by various organizations on the said social media platforms. I’ve grown fond of these discussions as I get a chance to share my ideas and also learn.

I and a team of young people from various Kenyan Universities also take time to lead such discussions on a health app dubbed RADA App. RADA App is health mobile app that we developed in conjunction with University of Nairobi and UNESCO. We extend our discussions to Facebook, Twitter and Watsap where we’ve built a community of young people and professionals ready to be activists of whatever  challenge that affects the society. The discussions have proved to be fruitful as young people are more aware of how to stay safe from COVID 19 and handle their mental health. One strategy that has proved useful is where we come up with thematic hashtags and raise dialogues around them. Our main areas of focus are COVID 19, mental health, Sexual and reproductive health, Gender Based Violence, nutrition among others. We’re champions for spreading reliable information from trusted sources on COVID 19.

Evening’s in the African culture are believed to be family time, especially currently as the Kenyan government has imposed a mandatory curfew from 7:00 pm. I took this positively and decided to not only spend time with my family, but also try expand the family. Evening’s for me therefore are spent establishing more personal conversations and interactions. ZOOM has proved a resourceful digital tool in this. I pass my sincere gratitude to the various organisations and professionals that have partnered with us in coming up with the themes of these discussions and moderate them. As a famous saying goes, ‘A problem shared is half solved.

I would therefore with sincere appreciation say that averagely I reach out to more than 2000 young people every day.

These comes with its challenges though. The most relatable one is waking up in the morning. It’s the rainy season and so the thought of waking up sometimes can be unbearable. However, just like I had stated earlier, we have accountability partners.

Moreover, reaching out to young people online is challenging since DATA for internet is expensive. To  add salt to the injury,  a limited number of young people have smart devices. We are therefore aware that as we sensitize there is a percentage of young people left out. This affects us also as the internet is not so strong from our area of operation and therefore keeps buffering  as we hold discussions. This sometimes lead to delay in between discussions which is disorderly and tiring. We are looking into our strategy to see how we can reach them.

Lastly as much as I use social media with good intentions, it can prove detrimental to my health. Addiction to social media is a potential threat to my mental health and well being. I therefore have to look for ways to moderate my exposure, which proves  hard since I strongly feel that the world needs me more than ever. I need to put myself out there and support young people in realizing that the future is as bright as we want it to be.

I call upon every young person to use every means available to reach out and offer a hand to a vulnerable soul. Together we can make through this. Together we can figure out what really it is that the future holds.

Lots of Love.

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