Right before the ‘new normal’ sank in our minds, we felt mixed emotions of anxiety, hopelessness and feeling unsure of what is to come. The pandemic came with a crashing domino effect of the society’s entire system- from livelihood, health care, education, transportation, and a lot more!
People started to become flexible in order to survive and continue what they have started- modifying things in any way possible. While others started to look for ways to innovate in order to help and become more productive.
The younger generation have more likely seen what so far are the major twists of the century, particularly in our country- from the implementation of K-12 to coronavirus’ invasion and a few things in between and after.
“There seems to be something to get in our way when we are almost at the finish line,” said a K-12 graduate and soon to be a college graduate.
While we argue to continue what we used to with the help of our internet connection and digital gadgets, it will never be the same. And so, we embrace the new normal and find alternative ways to serve our purpose.
Peace Fellows speak on the new normal
Active student leader, debater, and EAI-PH Peace Fellow Ashley Dejarme from the Ateneo de Davao University expressed how she was deeply saddened that the school and peace project activities she is spearheading had to be cancelled.
“I could not risk my participants and volunteers’ health and I doubt any transport company would be willing to take the risk as well. After that, I went into a slump. The feeling of hopelessness and anxiety was undeniable during the weeks that I waited for the situation to get better. When it became clear that my original plans could not be implemented, I started looking for other ways to help, to feel useful in the face of uncertainty,” said Ashley as she remembers how everything went with her at the start of community quarantine.
Education student and Peace Fellow Rowel Damas from Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro shared the same sentiments with Ashley. The pandemic delayed the realizations of his peace project called Teen Trail for Peace.
“I was supposed to culminate my project last March but due to the safety measures that our government implemented to stop the spread of the virus, all plans were cancelled. Honestly, I was unprepared and I didn’t know what to do,” Rowel expressed.
While thinking of alternative ways to complete the implementation of their peace projects, these fellows devote their quarantine time sharing and learning relevant knowledge online.
“There are plenty of resource materials online that have made coping with this new normal a bit easier. I found an online resource for books that I could read in my free time. I found seminars and YouTube videos about peace advocacy. We are trying out new (online) platforms for debate,” Ashley shared.
(TIP: Visit Ashley’s Peace Project Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/intheloopinitiative/ for book and movie recommendations.)
Rowel, on the other hand, continues volunteering at Arrupe Educational Center run by the university. As an aspiring educator himself, he feels extra motivated to help put up resources for online learning both for teachers and students called ‘The Virtual Townhall’, and the online Night School Program for Alternative Learning System (ALS) students.
“This is not the usual thing that we did before this pandemic came. It is not easy to adapt to this new normal. We need to accept that this is one of the ways that we can do to stop the spread of the virus,” Rowel admitted.
But the coronavirus cannot stop the youth to pursue even more for their advocacies.
So, what’s next?
Close to Ashley’s heart is an elementary school in Misamis Oriental, and she plans to support the school as an alternative activity for her peace project.
“I was against the forced opening of classes and the transition to online classes but since it seemed unstoppable, I thought about a community that I could help,” Ashley said.
Since most of the parents prefer modular learning, teachers have to print the modules and deliver it to the students’ homes every week. Supplies are limited and so Ashley committed to lighten their load and help the school print some of the modules.
As for Rowel, he plans to connect with learners of the online Night School Program by providing them learning materials and access online in preparation for their schooling this year.
“This is a way of helping them in these challenging times and motivate them to continue schooling,” Rowel shared.
He also added a special virtual event to gather the participants of the activity he hosted last December 2019 as part of his peace project’s culmination.
Things may not have turned out the way they planned, but in one way or another, everything has to go on even at the expense of embracing what seems to be odd, unfamiliar and new normal. And yet again, the courage to continue and support each other are the things that matter./Irish Jane Calungsod, EAI-PH