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April 5, 2020

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Video journals: Global youth describe life in virus crisis

Take out your phone. Point the video camera at yourself. And tell us: What is it like to be a young person in your corner of the world, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis?

“We’re missing out on a lot of things,” says Angel Gona, 18. Her university shuttered, she is staying with her mother in a one-room “zozo” hut in a low-income township south of Johannesburg, South Africa.

“I feel it’s been kind of quiet,” said Freddie, 16, who lives in Chicago — normally “a violent kind of city,” but one where the lockdown has served as a respite from all-too-common gunfire.

Ask young people around the globe to record diaries of life in the pandemic, and their video logs will tell of anxiety about the state of the world, worry about family and their studies, a longing for friends — and a reliance on social media to help get them through. Angel Gona fears that she will fall behind in her studies at the University of Johannesburg. She lacks WiFi access to tap into online classes, and must endure power interruptions. She is shaken by the panic-buying she records at a local supermarket — “How people are panicking. How people are scared.”

Freddie, 16, a high school sophomore, is waiting this out with his family, including grandparents, in the home the family has shared for five generations in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood.

He’s missing his routine with school and the gym; sometimes, he says, he feels like he’s living “in a box.” But he vows to stay home and obey the lockdown — “anything,” he said, to protect his family and others.

Michaela, a 17-year-old high school student in Palo Alto, California, has been quarantined in her bedroom since developing a fever. She has family members who are high-risk and, though she eventually tested negative for coronavirus, has remained in her room as a precaution, since she’s been told that test results aren’t always accurate. A self-described introvert, she said spending a lot of time in her room had always been “the dream.” Now she’s not so sure.

Zoe, 16, lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her parents and sister. She describes stricter measures there for keeping people at home — and how those who disobey risk getting a ticket or being arrested.

“It’s very intense,” she said. If the rest of the school year is canceled, she might not see one of her best friends, whose family is moving to another country.

Also hunkered down with their families: Shiv Soin, a 19-year-old New York University student in New Jersey, who is working with other young climate activists to turn planned Earth Day marches into a massive livestream event. Pablo Roa, a 24-year-old journalist in Mexico City, is particularly worried about his father, who is undergoing chemotherapy, and those in his country who have no choice but to work outside the home.


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